Thursday, July 31, 2008

Myths, Monsters, and Morality

I do not presume to know if ghosts exist. I have no personal experience on which to base an opinion. (Though I always wanted to, darn it!) People I know and whose opinions I value tell me that they have experienced paranormal phenomena. So lacking evidence to the contrary, let's call me a reluctant skeptic. I certainly believe that there is a whole hell of a lot out there that we've yet to understand.

But genuine haunts and spirits aside, once upon a time, parents told children tales of the boogie man and other things that go bump in the night for a very specific reason. To keep them in bed where they belonged. It may seem cruel, but think about it—there was no electricity, so no night-lights. There were wild animals and open fires about. Staircases didn’t usually have hand rails. It was a safety thing. Also kept them out of mom & dad’s bed, which was quite possibly in the same room. Explained away all that grunting and bumping, too.

What boogie man tales did for the children, religion did for the grown-ups. Thinking about running around after dark? Watch out, the vampires might get you. Those shell fish that are making everyone sick? If GOD says they’re unclean, maybe the masses will stop eating them. In parts of Africa it is believed that evil spirits lurk in the corners of the house—so houses are built in circles. Also conserves the scarce wood supply, as a circle gives you the maximum area/perimeter ratio. In Thailand you build a high threshold to keep out the evil spirits that crawl along the floor. Also works on snakes. Handy, huh?

Now, again, I'm not saying that anything paranormal doesn't exist. I HONESTLY do not know. And I’m not saying that religion deliberately hoodwinks the populace for its own arbitrary or nefarious reasons. But in a pre-literate society, religion was one largely self-enforcing way for the educated minority to communicate messages to the masses, and to have them stick. A lot of the paranormal legends we’re familiar with today may have started off in just such a manner, along with the fact that every culture has a mythology, and as cultures moved and mingled, the legends spread, grew, evolved. Trolls mean one thing to one culture, something else entirely to another. Brownies, leprechauns, elves, pixies, faeries—the stories and differences are largely regional, but with a great deal of overlap. Some of these creatures featured in the teaching of pre-Christian beliefs, just as the djinn feature in Middle Eastern theology and demons in many of the Asian philosophies.

Now, if you want to know how I think these religious aspects, or even whether or not you believe in the existence of the paranormal, should relate to modern paranormal romance, you might be in for a shock.

I don’t.

Not one little, teeny, weeny bit.

I write FICTION. Stories. Faery tales if you will. They have nothing whatsoever to do with reality—especially politics or religion. I'm not confirming the existence of anything, or denying it. And as to religious beliefs, well, I try very hard not to mention religion at all, though now and again the context of a story forces it in. When it does, I try to be as vague as possible, and most importantly, not to offend any particular sect. Why? Because I don’t want to get into a religious debate. That’s simply not what my romantic fiction is about. If your beliefs have a problem with the existence of a werewolf, or a living gargoyle, or a half-dragon cop, that’s fine. I don’t believe in singing purple dinosaurs either, but I let my kids watch Barney, even though he bugged the crap out of me. Because even when they were two, they got the concept that THIS IS NOT REAL. Watching the show has no bearing on whether or not they believe in purple dinosaurs, just as reading one of my books should have no bearing on your belief in ghosts or djinnis, or sexy cowboys.

If however, you have a problem reading about magical creatures, you should probably not read my work. And that’s okay, too. I can recommend some wonderful authors who do bring their faith into their fiction—everything from Wiccan to Jewish to Catholic to Baptist to Buddhist.

But in my stuff? Whether it's about dragons or cowboys, it's all just fantasy. So kick back, forget reality for a while and have some fun.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Myth and the Pulpit

When the Harry Potter books debuted and churches and some schools got all up in arms over the "wizard, devils, and witchcraft" debate, I had to roll my eyes. Sorry, but I couldn't help the religious zealots go AGAIN.

Stories of weres, vamps and other "creatures" evolved from myth and folklore many years ago and they've been embellished over past decades. There's nothing wrong with that. Personally, I love the Irish/Celtic stories of fairies and sorcerers, wizards and witches. They are fun tales that play to our sense of fancy and our longing to know about the paranormal or what could exist "on the other side".

Around our house we're addicted to shows like A Haunting and Ghost Hunters and I find it interesting to note that obviously The Church believes in things such as demons and entities because every now and then they tote out the holy water and relics to perform exorcisms. I was raised as a protestant but the other day I remarked these featured hauntings usually happen to Catholics. Don't really know what the protestants do to get rid of ghosts. Maybe they're stuck with them.

Religious scholars apparently study the paranormal but I know for sure they don't advise their congregations to "believe" in the existence of ghosts or other paranormal entities. They're told about the devil and that's about it. Reincarnation is dismissed and witchcraft is labeled as bad when most know WICCANS are about peace and harmony with nature. A nature created by God. Go figure. Books like Harry Potter are demonized and folks in rural areas all over the country worked to see they were banned from school libraries.

Why would we doubt the existence of other worlds or universes when even the pyramids feature hieroglyphics of space ships. Ancient Native American carvings show the same. Evidence of the an active spirit world are all around us, documented and catalogued. Why not explore theories or the afterlife, ghosts, parallel universes and reincarnation? Does this fit with today's religious theology. I don't know. I'm not a student of what religious people believe about it and if they think about it and study it, they certainly don't share their thoughts with the rest of us. At least, my pastors never did.

I've always lived in small southern towns, attending tiny churches where black was black and white was white. There was no shade in between and no room for ghosts or spirits. No room for exploration. The Word was the Word and wasn't open to interpretation. I see the world, however, as multi-dimensional and full of secrets that deserve to be explored and examined.

Granted, I find the idea of actual shape-shifters and vampires a tough sell in the 'reality' department but they sure are fun to read and write about. They spark my curiousity and make me think along with taking me on trips to other worlds. I don't have any qualms with my faith in indulging my enjoyment of the paranormal. It's my business and I could care less what a church thinks about it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Yesterday Anny mentioned the Bible as a holy book but not an encylopedia. I agree. It's not meant to answer all your reference questions. In fact, if you take passages from the Bible and put them in a word doc, you will find that those little green underliney things pop up indicating grammatical errors. Due to translation no doubt, but not your example of grammatical usage for a college paper or thesis.

However, I do have to differ with her as ghosts (Job), Pangaea (Genesis), and Dinosaurs (BOTH water dwelling veggie-sauruses and land dwelling meata-saureses) are mentioned in the Bible. Interestingly enough, it isn't the prospect of a single landmass breaking up or dinosaurs that will create some of the biggest controversy in a religious discussion, but the open communication about the spirit world.

I find it interesting that in a faith which believes deeply in the Holy Spirit and the minions of the underworld, we are not encouraged to discuss what happens to us when we pass on. Oh, it's talked about in quiet whispers and shared experiences... even (gasp) at seminary between the wives.

It was during one such discussion that a seminary guy confessed he was a sensitive who really appreciated taking a theology class where they did a two day seminar on hauntings and possessions!! I was floored! I mean, my husband attends the same school but he is a tough ghost critic despite our numerous personal experiences (which, if you have been following along, have not continued since the move and I have yet to hear from our renter that they've been a problem).

The seminar bits he told me about were fascinating. For example, spirits seem to prefer water or areas with water as a kind of anti-baptism. They also prefer to possess something, even if it's an animal as opposed to being cast out into a bodiless existence. There were other things too, like if you are in an exorcism, you ought to have your life very much in order because the inhabiting spirit will call out your sins one by one to get you to stop. This includes forgiven sins and existing sins. That's enough to make me run, right there.

My friend Dena is married to the guy who was in that course. She's sensitive too and we had a long talk one day about personal experiences, faith, and what we believe happens to us "after". Where I believe in spirits who pretend to be the ghosts of loved ones gone (the distinction is a whole 'nuther blog folks), Dena believes that ghosts are our spirits on a parallel plane with us. That they either can or cannot reach through the veil to be heard or seen. That hell for them is being near your loved one but never able to communicate and heaven is always interacting with them. Neither one of us was sure what that meant for the dingo dipwad who messed around with my shower head while I was bathing.

Jean, another friend, doesn't believe there is anything. Mia refuses to discuss it. Linda thinks I'm crazy. Terri and Jannifer will talk aliens but not ghosts, and most of us quietly pretend that whatever we've been taught must be right therefore pressing the matter might end up in bad vibes or mean we have broken from faith.

But does it really have to mean that? I'm firm in my belief of an afterlife in heaven (or hell, you naughty, naughty things!!! I say this tongue in cheek cause thankfully, I'm not the one making the decisions or pretending to have an inside scoop on the matter). I am also confident that there are many many things we cannot understand yet. We get glimpses and form an opinion which works until the next glimpse comes along to tighten or alter the definition we've created. Are there weres? Dunno. Aliens? No idea. I have experiences but no proof. Sasquatch? Possibly. Can't rule that out. Vampires? All kinds, especially those emotional vampires who suck your positive energy every time they are around. The blood kind? Again. Dunno. I know there are those who practise vampirism but whether they are immortal, enh....

With faith (any faith), which needs gossamer trust in order to have an existence, I would say it opens the door nicely to other philosophies, including the supernatural or paranormal. After all paranormal just means, outside the norm. But faith is... well, it's a belief right?

We believe it whether there is factual evidence or not. It is faith BECAUSE it's not concrete but accepted as truth, anyway. That being the case, I have faith that there is a spirit world intimately involved with us... you can call it ghosts if you want. I have faith that there are creatures yet undiscovered on this planet and therefore the possibility of other planets is wide open... I have faith that my experiences aren't the only ones out there, nor are yours... and I have faith that one day, I'll know for sure.


Monday, July 28, 2008

Paranormal in Religion

There is a thought that vampires, shape shifters, and others really exist. Individuals who are devoutly religious have difficulty with that idea because others are not mentioned in the major books of faith (Bible, Torah, Koran). Surely, if the others truly existed they would be mentioned? After all, the creation stories make mention of all sorts of creatures. Why not them?

I have my own ideas. I was raised in a very fundamentalist protestant home. And yet I wondered. The dinosaurs weren't mentioned in the Bible. But undeniably, they existed. North and South America weren't mentioned... weren't even hinted at, yet they are here. The Bible, while a holy book, was not ever meant to be an encyclopedia. Why would we expect it to contain all knowledge?

I think that there are many, many things on earth that we only dimly perceive. Some of those we are not ready to deal with so we willfully refuse to see. Others we don't see because we don't know how to look. We don't observe. Ask five individuals at a crime scene to describe the perpetrator. You'll get five different descriptions.

We also live in a world where we have little knowledge of those who live around us. Truly. How many of us know more than a handful of our neighbors? I freely confess that I only know one of the neighbors in my building (twelve apartments). I know one other enough to greet her when I happen to see her outside. And I know the two sisters who live next door to me enough to recognize them. So for all I know, I could have a vampire or werewolf or faery living in my building.

And then there is the issue of intolerance. We don't like people who are not us. To some extent religion has fostered that notion. If someone were to confess that they are a were or vamp there would be a public outcry. It's one thing to fantasize about such things or read about them in a book. It's another thing to come face to face with them. Instead we take comfort that they must not exist because our religious leaders tell us so.

I wonder...


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Traveller's Refuge

Bishop Llewellyn woke with the certainty that it was not going to be a good day. His head was full of tiny elves industriously beating on drums. His stomach was jumping in time to the drum beating. And his arms were twisted uncomfortably behind his back, where they appeared to be tied to his ankles. No, it wasn’t going to be a good day. A dark bag that seemed to be impregnated with cow manure was pulled over his head. He sincerely hoped that most of the cow manure had been emptied from the bag before he had dubious pleasure of its acquaintance. As he carefully took stock of his situation, he realized that he was stark naked and cold and had been rather carelessly dumped on the rough metal floor of a moving vehicle. It was a stupid way to spend his forty-fifth birthday.

The speed at which the vehicle was moving down something that resembled a dry pot-holed river bed did not auger well for either the vehicle or his skin. He bounced from one side to the other, slamming into hard pointy objects and concluded with faint resignation that he had no hope of getting out of this situation with a whole skin. The vehicle slammed to a stop and he heard the driver get out and shut the door. A few seconds later, the back door was opened and he was yanked toward the opening, losing more skin on the way. Almost with relief, he felt the tiny needle prick in his ankle and then he knew no more.

When he woke next, the elves were still with him but he was stretched out on the cold ground with his arms and legs firmly tied to stakes. And much to his dismay, he was still naked. The odiferous bag had been removed from his head and he saw that he was surrounded by darkness. About six feet away, a small fire was merrily crackling but it provided no heat for him. The duct tape that had covered his mouth had obviously been ripped off, taking part of his skin and mustache with it. It still burned, so he decided he was glad that he had not been conscious for that particular delight. His field of vision was limited but it seemed to him that he was in a cave.

“Happy Birthday, Bishop. I see you decided to finally rejoin the almost living,” a dark velvety voice observed and he knew exactly why he was in this situation.

“‘Lo, Trav,” he said casually. “Lots of work to piss off my father.”

“Now, Bish,” he was assured, “nothing is too much work to piss off your father.” Traveller moved into his field of vision and looked down at him. “You don’t look very comfortable, Bish. Aren’t you cold, like that?”

“Freezing,” Bish replied curtly. “But I’m sure you have something in mind to warm me up, so I’m not too worried about it.” He shivered artistically but Trav wasn’t buying. “So, what’s the deal? Are we waiting for a party? Or is this a stag deal?”

“Just you and me,” Trav informed him agreeably. “Straight trade. You for Dance.”

“And if Dad doesn’t have Dancer?” Bish didn’t think that his father had Dancer.

“We-ll, we’ll get to be better friends than we are now.” Traveller laughed quietly, sending chills up Bishop’s back. “I do hope that your father believed me when I said that I won’t negotiate.” He moved away and Bish heard the sound of liquid splashing into a container. “Are you thirsty?”

“I could use some water,” Bish replied.

“Here. Turn your head,” Trav instructed as he held a metal cup to Bish’s mouth. “There are approximately six hundred men out there on the mountain, trying to pinpoint this position. One of them is your girlfriend’s father, Carl DeMarko.” he said casually, as he tossed his heavy auburn braid back over his shoulder.

“Tiff’s not my girlfriend,” Bish declared curtly. “She’s a Fed they sicced on me when you disappeared.”

“I see. Now it’s my fault you were sleeping with that foul-mouthed wild cat?”

Bish shrugged. “Why turn down what’s offered?”

“Oh, maybe because she might just stick her gun up your butt and pull the trigger?”

“Nah, never happen. She’s using me to get something on my old man. Anyway, she’s fucking us both.”

Trav just stared at him in disbelief. “If Free finds out she’s a Fed, she’ll be a dead Fed.”

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Guest Blogger: author Elyssa Lynne

Today the Grip crew welcomes guest blogger, erotic romance author Elyssa Lynne!

First, I'd like to thank Anny, Kelly, Regina, Cindy and James for letting me come and play today. It's been a delight reading about how they write -- and getting to read their excerpts.

I taught novel writing at a community college for six years. The first thing I learned from my students was that there were an infitine number of ways to write a book. Each writer is different from all others, from the hard wiring in our brains that direct how we think and create to our life experiences that shape how we view the world and express ourselves. And each book is unique, from the way it first springs into our minds to the way it takes shape as the words flow--or are dragged out--onto the page. No matter how many books each one of us writes, the odds are that no two will have gone through the exact same process.

So far, everyone here on Oh Get a Grip seems to be a pantser (or is that pantster?). I'm the opposite. I come up with a detailed plot that I regard as a road map. I know where I'm starting and I know where I want to end up. I also know which high and low points I want to visit along the way. But I allow plenty of leeway for unexpected sidetrips that my characters want to take. And I've been known to scrap the plot, usually when I reach Chapter Seven (out of about twenty-four) because the side excursions have become more interesting than the originally intended destination.

Because of that, I've learned I can't edit as I compose. I hate wasting time polishing sentences and scenes that wind up being cut. Books, until they are actually released, are living, breathing creations, unique and with a life of their own that frequently delights -- and frustrates -- their writers. And we never actually finish them. We just abandon them -- usually when we've reached, or possibly passed, their deadline. I know for me, each book has been a unique creative experience.

And I know each one has left its mark (sometimes those of a bulldozer) on me.

Jewels of the Nile -- Ruby
By: Elyssa Lynne
(click on cover for more information)

Blurb: For six years, Guerrin has become a mindless, killing werewolf every full moon. But one night he encounters Marya, and his Primal Urge to mate with her is so strong, he reverts to human form—thus beginning a magic spell that is his only hope of salvation.

If Guerrin and Marya can construct a collar of steel, silver and a ruby and fasten it about his neck at the moment he is both wolf and man, he will retain his own mind even in wolf shape. To complete the spell, each step must be accompanied by an enactment of the Primal Urge—a major distraction. Time is running out, and if they fail to succeed by the time the moon rises on the third night, Guerrin will die.


The wolfishness stirred in him, seeping through his bones, running along his muscles, racing through his blood, raising his hackles. His mouth ached with the fangs that strained to lengthen, sharpen, tear into flesh as his prey ran from him in terror. He shook his head in denial but it turned into the full body shiver of an animal.

“The moon,” he gasped.
Marya clutched his hand and closed her eyes. “It won’t rise for about another two hours.”
“The urge to change—it’s too strong. It’s taking me already.”
She rose and grasped his shoulders as if to hold him there, to force him to remain human. “This is the peak of the full moon.”
“But it’s never come on me before it actually started to rise,” he cried. He had so much to do still. And he had to run away, far from this town, far from anyone he might hurt. He needed to be many miles from here before he changed into a creature with the lust for blood filling his being.
“We’ve started a work of magic,” she told him.
She sounded so calm, so steady. So dependable. He wrapped his arms about her, holding her close, needing the promise of hope she represented. Needing her love to keep him human. But for that he also needed the collar secured around his neck, never to be removed. They still had hours of work. But already he could feel the claws on his toes rubbing against the soft leather of his boots.
“I’ve got to get away,” he breathed.
He lifted his head, sniffing the air with a nose that sensed far more than a mere human’s. Words sounded near him but they didn’t matter. Only the smells, only the need to run, to hunt, to kill.
She slapped his face, over and over, not hard but with persistence. “Can you hear me? Guerrin!”
He drew a shuddering breath. “We’ll have to finish tomorrow.”
“Go to my cottage,” she ordered. “Guerrin? Are you listening?”
With an effort he focused on her and covered her hands where they rested on his face with his own. They definitely had more hair on their backs than they should before the moon had crested the horizon. And his claws…
“Go to my cottage,” she repeated, “and eat something. Bread. Cheese. Carrots. Human food. Do you understand?”
He nodded. Would he even have time to get there before the change overtook him completely, left him running on four paws instead of two feet? Left him craving warm blood and raw flesh instead of baked goods and dairy products?
“If you eat,” she went on, “you won’t be hungry as a wolf. You might not hunt.”
Eat. I have to eat. Would he have time?
“Stay near my cottage.” She spoke slowly, one word at a time. “You must come to me some time tonight when you are fully a wolf.”

“I can’t trust myself,” he gasped. “Not tonight. The wolf form is too strong. If I come to you—”
“You must.” She broke across his protests. “And the primal urge is stronger even than the wolf in you. You’ll come to mate. Now go. Run. I’ll straighten up here and follow as soon as I can.” She pulled his head down and kissed him hard.

He dragged her tight against his body, savoring the feel, wanting never to let go. But a part of him that grew stronger by the second also wanted to rip her throat out. Not the best foundation for the life he wanted with her. His mouth sought hers for one last desperate caress then he dragged up the breeches he’d lowered and knotted them about his waist even as he sprinted for the door. It opened with well-oiled ease and he raced toward the nearest low wall. Several people turned to stare at him but he kept on, driven by his fear of what he might do if he remained. He laid his hands on the top stones, vaulted over and pelted across the field toward the forest beyond.
Check out more about Elyssa at her website:
Find her books at Ellora's Cave.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bring on the Noise, Bring on the Pain

My office is really just a corner that sits outside of the main living room. The kids in the neighborhood have deemed my house “the cool” hangout and as a result, I usually have a crowd traipsing in and out of the area, playing pool in the open game room above me or video games with the volume cranked loud enough to vibrate my teeth or any number of other activities that most would find distracting.

The cacophony doesn’t seem to bother me in the least, in fact, I embrace it and I’ve been doing it so long now that when there is an absence of chaos, I have trouble creating scenes that have any real bite to them. As such, when I find myself in silence, I plug my ipod into the stereo, crank the volume a few notches short of max and let the worlds of my characters spiral out of control.

For the most part, I’m a pantser. When I sit down to write, I have very little idea where my characters will take me or what kind of people they will turn out to be for that matter. I guess you could say, I’m reading the story as I write it.

I’ve only attempted to write a story from an outline once, but it is still unfinished. I love the story idea, don’t get me wrong, but when I wrote the outline, it took away something I never knew I would miss: the anticipation. I already know what will happen in the story and how it ends. I’m no longer reading along as I write, I’m just plugging in the details.

I juggle a day job that requires a fair amount of travel, raising my son, housework, writing, promotion and as much fun as I can squeeze into each and every day. Sometimes I drop a ball or two, but for the most part my hectic lifestyle seems to be just the thing I need to keep the creative juices flowing. I guess I’m just a Cleric of Chaos. I thrive on perpetual motion and welcome the flurry of activities that dominate my waking hours.

Truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Even if I were to hit the literary lottery and quit my day job with tons of play money, I’m sure I would just find some other activity to take its place. Perhaps I was a shark in my past life and have some deep rooted fear that if I stop moving I will die. Perhaps, I just suffer from adult ADD. Either way, I seem to funnel the pandemonium into my writing.

But enough rambling about my writing environment (or lack there of), it’s time to offer up a bit of writing inspired by anarchy.

The Sweet Release

The pain rouses me. I’m aware of every inch of my body. I search for some part of me that is unharmed. I come up short. I feel cold steel beneath me. I wish its caress would soothe my battered limbs, but it only amplifies the severity of my wounds. The bright lights of the room make the world look pink through my shut lids. I don’t dare open them. Seeing is believing and I desperately don’t want to believe. Reality is overrated.

It hurts to breath. I will myself to take small draws. The flesh of my lips break open as I pull them apart. The moisture is welcome. The pain in my chest lessens. The air rattles when it comes up through my throat, escapes from my mouth. I barely resist the urge to cough. To cough would be disastrous. The pain would be more than my already fragile mind could bear. My lungs are full of something. I don’t dare guess what.

My tongue is swollen; my teeth won’t meet. How many of them are still whole? I feel the jagged edges as they scratch the sides of my tongue. I taste copper at the back of my throat. Fluid pools there, blood, saliva…Lord only knows what else. I don’t dare swallow.

I listen for movement. I can hear nothing but the pound of my heart and the buzz of a fluorescent light. The room is still. Am I alone? I don’t dare hope.

My tiny breaths are coming faster, harder to control. I chance the pain, take a deep gulp, trying to calm myself. The smell of blood and urine assault my nostrils. I gag. My chest threatens to explode from the movement. I just thought I hurt before.

My eyes open. The light burns, blinding me. I resist the urge to slam them shut. I have to see. I need to see. My vision slowly adjusts to the brightness of the room. I’m not sure whether I should be thankful or not. Seeing is believing after all. I let my face fall to the left. I shudder as I study the bizarre looking instruments laid neatly in a row on the table beside my head. I look beyond them to the wall. I focus on the calendar. I know this is important, but I can’t remember why. Ducks rise from a pond, forever frozen in mid-flight for the picture of the month.

It’s October. The first three days bear brown, crusty Xs. Two days are blank. The 6th is marked with a smiley face, drawn in blue Sharpie. The 6th is my birthday…my death day. The end is near. How can I manage to survive for another three days? How has my body lived this long?

I want to sit up, but the leather straps bite into the skin of my chest and thighs. The movement causes me to release the pent up cough. Blood and mucus spray the shiny metal table. I watch as it pools and oozes back towards me. I scream out as the force of the cough clenches the muscles around my broken ribs. The room swims, fades to black.

The pain returns. I’m still here. It wasn’t a nightmare. I lie still; I hold my breath. Maybe he didn’t hear me. I can’t keep the tears from rolling down my face when I hear the footsteps cross the floor above me. A door slams. I flinch with each creak of the stairs. He makes his way to me. His stride is sure, full of purpose. Another door opens. I feel a gust of air when he enters the room. He still has a smile for me.

He whistles to himself while he opens a cabinet over the sink, rummages through a cardboard box on the middle shelf. The tune is familiar, but I can’t quite place it. He pulls out a syringe and a small brown vial. He pushes the needle through the stopper on top. He pulls back on the plunger; the chamber fills with something the color of honey. He flicks the tip of chamber with his free hand and he walks toward me, still whistling.

He takes a long look at me, his gaze traveling from my feet to my eyes. His head moves slightly form side to side in rhythm to the song he whistles. He holds the needle over my face.

“I’m not ready for you yet,” he whispers, placing a hand on my forehead to hold me still as the needle moves closer slowly, deliberately. “I haven’t even finished my dinner. I would think you’d have learned a bit more courtesy by now. It’s rude to inconvenience your host.”
“Don’t do it. Please! I’m sorry.” My voice sounds childish even to me.
“Oh, don’t worry, my dear boy; we’ll have plenty of quality time soon, but for now, you need your rest.”
I struggle to pull away from him. I turn my head, but his voice draws my gaze back to him.
“Save your strength, Ray.” His laugh is a low rumble that seems to originate from deep within his bowels. “You’re gonna need it. I can promise you that much.”

His eyes are bright. He licks his lips in anticipation. It is apparent that he is still enjoying his petty torments. He resumes his song and I watch the needle grow. The plastic chamber looks enormous as it slides to the left of my nose, into my eye socket. I barely feel it; my body has greater pains with which to occupy my mind.
“Pop goes the weasel,” he sings the last verse of his song while he empties the syringe into me.

I knew the song was familiar.

Cold fire builds around the needle in my flesh. I feel it spread, numbing my face, numbing my mind. The darkness grows in my peripheral vision, consuming me, carrying me away. The pain is fading; it’s almost a distant memory.

I dream of the knock on my door, the smiling face that greets me, the little white carrier filled with plastic bottles. He wants to sell me cleaners, offers a demonstration. His face is too charming to deny. He wants to know when my birthday is. Charmed by his smile, I tell him. His hands are like stone on my throat. I feel the coffee table break beneath me, the air leave my chest, my hands fall away from his hair. My eyes water from the fumes as he presses the towel over my nose and mouth. Blessed darkness becomes my new best friend.

“Will you please stop passing out? We have a lot to do today and our birthday is almost over,” his voice fills my mind as he gentle taps my cheek with the back of his hand.
The darkness is gone. Pain rules my world once again. His eyes are as bright as ever.
“It’s already my birthday?” I strain to see the calendar on the wall.
The crusted Xs now cover the smiley face.
“Would I lie to you?” he asks, patting the top of my head.
His smile seems so innocent.

“Wh-wh-why?” I struggle to form the question as I watch him pick up a long thin blade that reflects the light from above as he brings it closer.
“Because this is the day you were born.”
“No.” It is increasingly difficult to concentrate my thoughts on anything but the throbbing of my open wounds. “Why are you doing this?”
“I have to.” He rests his elbows on the table, leaning closer to my face. “This isn’t just your birthday, but mine and the anniversary of my salvation.”
“I don’t understand,” I admit, blinking away his fetid breath as it washes over my lashes.
“Have you already forgotten? Everyday you ask me and everyday I tell you the same thing. Do I really have to tell you again?” He waits for an answer, but I can only nod. “I was killed six years ago today.”
“But you’re not dead.”

“Yes, my Gods have chosen in their infinite wisdom to spare me. They gave me back my life and in return--”
“You give Them mine?” I ventured when he fell silent.
“Bingo! I pay tribute to them once a year, a life for a life.” He winks at me. “It’s only fair, don’t you think?”
“Will they save me?” I hoped against hope.
“No, you’re not worthy. I died doing what I love. I died fighting. I died in Their honor.” He throws his head back, laughs. “You’re a victim. You were born for this and you will die for me. You will die for Them.”

“How did you die?”
“With a blade in my chest and smile on my lips, but then, who wouldn’t smile when they look into the face of their Gods?”

He pushes himself up from my side, drops the blade back onto the tray. I can hear the rattle of steel on steel as he searches for just the right instrument with which to resume his games.

I can barely hear his words, his search. My body is on fire, licking at the last vestiges of my sanity. He has been working on me for years it seems, but I’m still aware enough to know it’s only been days. Bits and pieces of memories flutter in my mind. I shut them out; they’re too much to relive. He has been a busy boy. His laughter is infuriating, intoxicating, all I have to hold onto. I am adrift; the pain is pushing me away. His voice is an anchor drawing me back. I can no longer make out his words, but his meaning is driven home with each puncture of my flesh. I try to detach myself, flee inside my mind. It is futile; there is no escape for me. All I have is my agony and his smile.

Light flashes from something he’s picked up, blinding me. I’m oddly thankful. Shadows swim; purple dots fade. I can just make out his arm, he his holding something above my head, out of my line of sight. His hand moves; I catch my first glimpse of the blade. Its length stretches beyond both my shoulders. It’s as thick as my hand is wide. I see a reflection as it passes over my eyes, a sunken face, vacant stare, lacerations accent my swollen cheeks. My stubble has grown into a patchwork beard, segmented by long gashes. Is that really me? The edge of the blade is even with my chin. He pauses; turns the blade vertical. He rests it on my chin. I can see myself again. It is not a pretty sight. I try to turn away. I can’t. I try to close my eyes. I don’t dare. Resignation trumps all. My breath fogs my reflection, obscuring it, hiding my stare, hiding my shame.

He moves to stand behind me, his smiling face inverted over mine. His left hand is still on the handle. He rests the palm of his other hand on the dull side of the blade. He lifts the blade from my chin, holds it calmly in the air between my chin and chest. He pushes down hard. The blade meets my throat with the weight of a punch and moves on to the table beneath it with a clang.

I hear my body thrash and twitch. I can no longer feel it. My throat throbs; I try to swallow. Is that the ocean I hear? My vision narrows. The room fades. Only his smile remains. The pain is gone. I am free. Happy Birthday to me.

The End

Thursday, July 24, 2008

mostly a pantser...

Trying to nail down the writing process for me is like trying to make goldfish march in formation. I'm really truly all over the place. It depends on so much--starting with the length of the story and whether or not it's erotic. If it's an erotic short, no, I don't outline. I just start with a premise and an ending in mind and figure out how many different positions I need to include to get from point A to point B in the proper number of words.

For a longer story, I do sort of outline. It's rough. Usually I just start writing. I get down the first chapter or three which introduces the important stuff: characters, setting, conflict. Then I decide if that's going to work, and where I'm going with it. Then I figure out the length I'm aiming for--say 70 thousand words. Then I figure out how many chapters that is. I run about 5000 words per chapter. So I've got about 14-15 chapters. I try for about 3 main scenes per chapter (though it rarely works out that way,) and sort of do bullet points. They get fleshed out as I go, and often the later chapters are blank until I figure out what needs to happen.

Here's a sample, from a work I started long ago for a publisher who no longer exists. Maybe one day I'll finish the thing...

Chapter 1:
Ø Witness drug deal, shooting, boat destroyed
Ø Jake’s transformation, sees shooting, rescues Heidi
Ø Heidi wakes up on Jake’s boat
Chapter 2
Ø Heidi’s shower, goes above, propositions Jake
Ø Love scene
Ø Jake’s regrets
Ø Coast guard-cops believe Heidi is involved in Brad’s disappearance
Ø Heidi’s apartment is ransacked. She asks Jake to help find killers

Here's a couple of snippets from that same work, tentatively titled, Fins.

Excerpt 1
Jake felt the tingles coursing through his skin, knew midnight was near. He dove, naked, off the rear deck of his boat, slicing cleanly into the calm dark waters off of Ensenada. Eyes adjusting easily to the moonlit night, he surfaced, inhaling great gulps of the warm salt air. He reveled in the feel of the gentle waves caressing his skin. They felt like—home. He dove deep and swam out toward the horizon, away from the boat and the lights of the town.

A pod of dolphins had been frolicking in this area all day, that’s why Jake had anchored so far out from shore. He’d planned to duck into town for supplies, but he hadn’t been able to resist watching the show. There was always hope—but it had been so long since he’d heard from anyone in his family. Still, the dolphins would be welcome company on his midnight swim.

He’d gone a few hundred yards when he felt the change come over him. His leg muscles stretched and morphed, feet fusing together as his spine lengthened. He drew in deep, deep breaths to fill the air sacs that now nestled below his rib cage. Then, once the transformation was complete, he allowed himself one joyful breach, leaping clear out of the water before diving below the surface and using his powerful tail to propel him through the night.

Excerpt 2
Heidi woke to darkness and pain. The last time her head had felt like this had been the morning after her one and only frat party as an undergrad. She wondered what idiotic stunt she’d pulled this time.

She reached out a hand for the bedside lamp, then whimpered in additional pain when her fingers slammed into something hard. Like a wall. The bed beneath her was hard, too. Hard and wet. Where was she, and why couldn’t she remember?

“Ssh. Relax. You’re going to be all right.” The words were gentle, the voice deep and soft and soothing. Fingers touched her brow, smoothed her hair. Heidi drifted back to sleep.

When she woke again, there was light. Sort of. She recognized the dim glow of an incandescent bulb. When her eyes cleared she could see that two lamps were on, reflecting off burnished pine paneling. Outside the small window, the sky was still dark. The bed beneath her was bigger, softer than where she’d been before. And it rocked. Ah. She was on a boat.

Boat! Heidi jerked into a sitting position as the memories cam flooding back. She remembered the plane, the cigarette boat, the drug deal. And then she remembered the shooting. She screamed, forgetting for a moment that she might be a captive of the drug-runners, that she might want to feign continued unconsciousness.

The door opened and a man stepped inside. He was tall, taller than Heidi, he had to stoop to enter. He was also one of the most gorgeous males she’d ever seen, with wavy black hair and eyes as dark as sin. There was a chipped black mug in his hand.


Oh, God, was she ever! She studied him for a moment, trying to remember if she’d seen him on the cigarette boat. She couldn’t be sure, she hadn’t seen them that clearly. She should refuse. Of course, if they’d wanted her dead, they could have just left her in the ocean. And she really, really wanted the drink. “Thanks.” Her voice was hoarse and cracked.

He walked closer, handed her the mug. He must have seen her hands shaking as she tried to grasp it, because he eased it into her grip, then wrapped his own hand around hers to help her bring it to her lips. She ignored the tingle she felt at his touch.

The tea was lukewarm and very sweet. Heidi hated sugared tea, but she drank it, recognizing that her body needed the fuel to fight off shock. She sipped slowly till she’d consumed half the mug, then pushed it away.

“My partner,” she asked again, her voice a little stronger this time. “Did you find him?”

“The man who was with you in the boat?” His eyes were dark brown, almost black, and mesmerizing. She felt like she could look into them for hours. And she saw the flash of regret in them even before he answered. “I’m sorry. I searched for about an hour, but I only found you.”

“Not even…” She hated to say it. “A body?”

He shook his head and the long, shaggy black waves tumbled around a face that could have been sculpted by Michelangelo. Empathy poured off him in waves. He couldn’t be one of the dope runners. Could he? She really wanted to trust him. “No. I’m sorry,” he repeated.

“Why? Did you shoot him?”

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Stream of Conciousness and WOO WOO Stuff

Ommmmm Ommmmm. That's my calming chant just before getting ready to write! No, just kidding. I'm not nearly as Zen as Anny but I try. As a writer, I've found certain little rituals seem to settle my mind and that's what I need when I dig into a story. We have a fancy, very nice office in our house but when my son grew up and moved away, I converted his room into a nice, cozy little niche where I can go to PLAY. Every morning I check my emails, do blogs and other things for about 30 minutes or so then, I try to get zen. I have a stash of candles, my cup of coffee, and put on some pinging and ponging New Age music. I particularly like "water sounds"...waves on the beach, waterfalls, that sort of thing.

I'm a total pantser. I'll begin with a concrete idea of my hero and heroine and then I choose a locale. The locale part is easy because I subscribe to the idea of writing what I KNOW and I KNOW the south. Especially the Southwest. Most of my stories are set there. One day I'll really challenge myself and put my characters somewhere else to find their HEA. Then I latch on to a glimmer of plot and START. Starting, for some reason isn't all that hard for me. It's the ending that gets me. I ALWAYS stall out at the end of a story. Maybe I don't want to let my characters go. I don't know. I've wondered about the whys of it but it's just a reality I fight with every single book. I try to write for a few hours every morning with little breaks thrown in. Seems that getting up from the computer to do little random chores calms me down. I can fold a load of laundry and THINK. Thinking is key, especially if you're a random kind of writer. It helps to pull those little details together.

Unlike a lot of writers, I don't have an outside job. My son is grown and gone and my daughter is a teen who does her own thing so I don't have little ones to keep occupied while I pursue my writing. So I write in the mornings AND in the afternoon. I seldom write at night but chat with friends and spend time with the family. Some days, the writing schedule gets blown because of promotional stuff that we all have to do...but that's okay. It's all part of getting your name out there. After all, our books can't promote themselves.

Here's a little snip of a regency erotica I've been piddling around with. I've tended toward contemporary stuff lately but I have a love of the regency genre and have written and researched the genre for years. Lady Moonlight's Seduction is half-way finished but this little bit is rough.

A scene from Lady Moonlight's Seduction:

“Is he gone?” she whispered, drawing the covers up over her breasts. Her chemise was a tattered mess. She was practically naked.
Ryder shook his head and approached slowly. He sat next to her on the bed which was highly inappropriate but, then, this entire situation was inappropriate. He took her hand and squeezed gently. “How is your head?”
“Better. Ryder, oh sir, I am so sorry you have become embroiled in this!”
“His men took me while I slept. I woke up here and a prisoner. Thayer has armed men posted outside and bars on all the windows. He planned very carefully for this event. We are trapped.” When she opened her mouth to speak, he shook his head and shushed her. “This isn’t your fault but we have time to speak of all this later. We will sort everything out and find a way to escape. I promise you.”
Nicolette thought of her mother and sister at Findley’s mercy and began to tremble. “We must hurry, Ryder. We must find a way! My mother and sister are in terrible danger.”
He scowled fiercely and took her face between his hands. “I’ll kill him with my bare hands. Though I don’t know the details of this threat of which you speak, I promise to make everything right. Now, listen very carefully.”
His sinful dark eyes roiled with some emotion.
Hysteria threatened her composure but she forced herself to calm and look at him. On top of everything, he didn’t need to deal with an attack of the vapors. “I am listening.”
“Good girl,” he murmured. “I will be blunt. Witte is just outside. He will not leave until he knows we have been intimate.”
“Sex, Nicolette. He wants proof that we have had sex.”
A harsh sound tore from her throat. His intent gaze never left her. “Shh, darling,” he said. “We must get him out of here if we are to arrange an escape.”
Her mind whirled with scenarios and possibilities. She wasn’t a dolt. She knew that Findley wanted an heir and would obtain it by any means possible. The situation was dire, indeed! She swallowed. Her face heated. “What proof?”
“The proof of your virginity.”
Nicolette groaned. Shame tore through her until she shook with it. “And Witte will remain outside until he has his proof?”
Ryder sat back and cursed. “You have the right of it.”
Nicolette buried her hot face in her hands, a raw sound tore from her lips. Immediately, she felt his strong arms surround her. The steady beat of his heart, the scent of him soothed her as she clung. Impossible situation!
“I won’t have it said that I raped you, darling girl,” he whispered into her hair. His voice was low and comforting. “You must decide whether or not to allow me into your body. If we do not accomplish the deed quickly, I fear he will call in one of his men to do it. We can’t have that, Nicolette. You would be hurt and there is no doubt that I would die trying to protect you.”
She clung for just a minute as the ramifications ran wildly through her head and then she drew back and looked at him. Tears rained from her eyes and down her cheeks and Ryder spoke again. “Tell me, sweetheart. Is there someone you once loved? A man? Perhaps you can think of him while I touch you. Love you. It will kill me to have you pretend I am someone else but I will do whatever makes you comfortable.”
His kindness overwhelmed her. “We have no choice in this, do we?”
She reached up and kissed him. “I am ignorant of these matters. Will you show me?”

Fighting the shiver that raced over her skin, she felt his lips, his breath like a talisman against her fear. Ryder bent his dark head and kissed her palm slowly, sweetly. Tears burned behind her eyes when she’d never been a weepy sort of woman.
Here was a man to love.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Brain Candy ala Kelly (or is it Katie. Hmm)

My writing day is about getting it done. However I fit that in, however I schedule around meals and family... I get it done and usually before the deadline. I'm a pantser who lets the characters take over. I merely suggest a direction I'd like to see, throw the coals on the fire and see what happens. I firmly subscribe to the idea, "When in doubt, burn down the house". It's sometimes the only way to check out what your characters are made of.

But I do write fairly clean. I write in chapters and revise/edit before going on to the next one. I also document by outline the completed chapter so I have a reference point for later revisions or things I want to change, dates, timelines, introduced characters... yada yada yada. Then when it's over I revise and edit from start to finish adding in the little tid bits of info that I thought of along the way and now need to be reworked into the story.

But just for a feel, I recently shared this dose of Brain Candy for the Frogpond... it's just something I wrote in the moment. I don't even know if it has somewhere to go yet or if this is all it's meant to be. Enjoy!

Philipa Klineman could pretend it didn’t hurt but of course to high hell it had. You didn’t get handed your dignity in front of the office staff and told you were a desperate seething cow everyday of your life. Never, if you were fortunate. Though Hans Gladstone, the office sex god, may know a thing or two about whining bovine she refused to believe he had summed up their entire relationship into a kind of barnyard existence.

Really? She thought, Not just a seething cow, but a desperate seething cow? How exactly did one graduate from the first level to the second? And when was “giving the milk for free” ever actually meant to encompass her perfect relationship with the perfect man who did perfect things to her imperfect body and—okay, slightly damaged—psyche? Was there a moment she should have got off that train she’d missed? And if the heavens above corrected her mixed metaphors now, so help her.

You would think, having broken up with the sod seven months ago, his words wouldn’t still carry a sting. But he’d hit to the heart of the matter, hadn’t he? Attacking her insecurities, laying her bare for the entire office to pick over and speculate. She hated that she still cared what people like him thought of her. She’d given her best years, months—fine, some of her best and they were weeks—to him and his insatiable cock.

Storming down the rain-swept streets, Philipa tromped through a grease-slicked puddle hiding a crack. Her ankle turned. Her heel broke and she was left, toe deep, in goo. “Shit,” she said and then “shit!” she repeated for more emphasis. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!” Philipa bellowed to the sidewalk at large.

She ignored the glare of the nearest geriatric and the curious smile by the be-suited man sporting a cigarette. Philipa was in her element and could not be distracted. Nothing, no one, not a fireball falling immediately in front of her would sway her from storming into said sex god’s apartment—yes, she still had the extra key—and dumping potting manure on his sheets. He wanted a cow? He’d get the best part of a cow, damn it. At least potting manure knew how to nurture.

Philipa hobbled into the flower shop and shoved money at the stringy blonde popping bubbles and cracking her gum. She barely paused to toss a grateful wave as she hiked the smallish bag onto her hip and made a bee line for his residence. Maybe she’d even pour a glass of milk and leave it by his answering machine so he was reminded of exactly what he’d said—you know, in case full on bed poo wasn’t enough to get the message across.

Out of nowhere, Philipa was shoved brutally forward. She would have lost her footing if a large, warm hand hadn’t circled her upper arm to keep her from falling. The bag was a loss, spilling its contents without concern for its owner’s slated revenge.

“Shit,” a deep baritone said beside her. “Sorry about that.”

Philipa looked forlornly at the quickly liquefying muck. “Well, it’s diarrhea, now.” She couldn’t help it. She didn’t know what overtook her but in that moment she busted out laughing. She doubled over, pointing at the fragrant sludge. “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I thought dumping a load of manure on his bed was a great idea. What the hell was I thinking?”

“You mean that’s shit?” he said. “Actual shit?”

Philipa looked up at the man who still held her arm, for the first time. Her laughter died.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Writing on the run

Writing! How hard can it be? You just sit in front of a computer all day, pressing little plastic keys... Well, not exactly. You have to have a story. Some days your characters are recalcitrant. Some days life doesn't cooperate. Some days you're just plain brain dead.

I'm among the fortunate few who can write all day long without having to deal with the day job. And the more I talk to writers who write while working a day job or juggling home and children, the more I know how very fortunate that is. For me, I expect that the juggling act would be impossible.

There was a time that I juggled with the best. I had four teenagers, worked full time, went to college full time, and in my spare time served as taxi mom. But those days are thankfully over and the most strenuous thing I do now is feed the cat. Given that, you would think that the writing gig would be pretty easy, right? Wrong.

I'm mostly a seat of the pants writer once my world building is complete so when nothing is happening, then nothing is REALLY happening. I may as well go back to bed or read a book or polish the furniture. That's the disadvantage to flying by the seat of your pants. The advantage of being a pantster is that you take the scenic route so you arrive at the most interesting out-of-the-way places--places you would never think to go.

In one of my current works in progress, my characters are in the future. And it's not a happy future. In this scene, the hero has escaped from the warlord that captured him several years before...

On the other side of the gaping rift, a lone man stumbled and fell as he ran from his pursuers. He scrambled up and ran on, desperately searching his surroundings for a hiding place. If he could just find a place to rest for a few hours, safe from the vicious hunters of the Green Boys clan he might have a chance. Without warning, he tripped over a buried log, falling headlong in a pile of leaves and debris.

Later, he was able to reflect on the good fortune that hurled him down the deep hole hidden by the debris where he came to rest against a pile of timber with such a thump that he was temporarily lost for breath. His cry of surprise was cut off, saving his life as the hunters searched feverishly for him. He lay panting quietly in the cold dark hole. High above him the pile of debris had bounced back into place, hiding his shelter.

Well, he’d prayed for a place to rest. He chuckled beneath his breath. Always that damned two edged sword. He’d forgotten to specify a hiding place he could escape from. He stretched out as best he could in the confined area and sighed. Rest first. Escape later. Then with something like surprise, he felt himself slide inexorably toward sleep.

He woke soaking wet and cold. Water trickled through the opening above him and he could hear the rush of the heavy rain and wind. He fumbled in his pocket and found the precious lighter. He remembered a time when the little plastic cigarette lighters were cheap and plentiful. Extracting it with care, he twisted it in his fingers until he could flick the tiny switch with his thumb. Flick my Bic. The expression ambushed him from the dark shadows of his memory. He puzzled over it for a moment until he caught the reference. It was an old advertising slogan for the lighters.

The switch caught and there was a flare of light from the tiny flame. He groped around in the shadows searching for a dry stick or piece of tinder. His fingers encountered a stick wrapped in cloth. He picked it up and carefully touched the flame to the edge of the torn fabric until it caught and flared with a rush.

With sick horror, he realized that the “stick” was a human bone. Just in time, he ruthlessly suppressed the instinct to throw it down. He needed the light and the human was long past the time when it was important to him or her. After drawing a long shaky breath, he shifted to a hunched squat and surveyed his shelter.

It wasn’t much as shelters went. He thought it might be an ancient mine working. Very ancient. There were hack marks on the roughly squared off walls and the faint reflection of gold and quartz glittered from the thin veins in the rock. Tumbled bones from at least two skeletons rested against the back wall. Remains of crude tools were scattered on the muddy floor.

He hefted the solid weight of an ancient stone ax. Yeah. Really, really old. Putting it back down where he found it, he reluctantly moved to examine the remains, hoping and praying that they hadn’t died from the Plague. He studied the untidy sprawl of bones. It looked like animals had found them. Whoever had discovered the ancient gold mine, it was certain it wasn’t these guys. They wore cross-trainers. He held his torch a little closer. Nike. New Balance. He whistled silently. On the black market just one shoe from either foot would fetch enough to buy food for a month. Maybe two months. Thinking about his own battered footwear, he determined that he would check the sizes in a little while. Maybe his prayers hadn’t turned out so bad, after all.


Sunday, July 20, 2008

Kama Sutra Lovers

Kama Sutra Lovers now available from Ellora's Cave. Just click the book cover!

“Think about it Arik. If your uncle takes over the company, there are real issues for the government. He’s made no secret about his feelings about our government contracts or about the conservation of resources. If he had his way, Elyria would be headed well down the same path of destruction as Earth.”

Arik nodded with resignation. “The cops. Thank you for thinking of it.”

“Don’t worry about that. What else is on your list?” Hart asked intently, as Matilda appeared with a large cart of refreshments.

“What list?” she inquired curiously.

“Giosetta just pointed out that our tri-marriage has placed us in greater jeopardy than we realized. We’re trying to compile a list of changes we need to make to ensure our security.”

“Change the locks.”

“I have that covered. The locksmith should be here in the next hour.” Hart pushed his communicator across the table. “There’s his info.”

She took the communicator to the house com, plugged it in and transferred the information. After unplugging it, she returned the com to Hart and started serving a hearty afternoon tea complete with chocolate scones and strawberries. “Have you considered hiring a professional driver and security team?”

Hart nodded. “Working on it. An official from EGS will be here at second hour sub-prime.”

“The locksmith! Lester has connections to at least two of the locksmithing companies,” Giosetta exclaimed. “I completely forgot about that.”

“Les has his fingers in a lot of pies,” Arik observed dryly. “We’re going to have to be very careful about who we deal with.”

“The locksmith is safe.” Hart smiled slyly. “He’s a distant cousin of mine. On Earth he was burglar.” His dark eyes were twinkling. “He retired when his number was picked in the lottery. Now he’s a full-time head chef at Mackanally’s Chinese Buffet.”

“Henry?” Arik stared at Hart, not quite sure whether to believe him or not. “Henry Anderson was a burglar?” He tried to envision the six-foot-three broad shouldered Henry sneaking into houses.

“One of the best.” Hart chuckled. “Henry was never caught. The cop who spent so much time trying to catch him was picked in the lottery, too. They play cards every Friday night.”

Giosetta giggled. “I bet that makes for some interesting conversations.”

“Yeah.” Hart sighed. “Back to work. What else do we need to add to the list?”

“Do you know a security company that’s not affiliated with Lester?” Arik tapped keys on his tablet filling in a lengthening list as he thought of new items to add.

“Lee Chong’s group. Security Solutions. He despises your uncle. I’ll call him.” Hart took his communicator over to the window to make his call while Giosetta and Arik worked on the list. While he waited for the connection to Lee, Hart watched a man sidle through the bushes that lined the wall. A sturdy pack on his back and the strange item he dragged behind him captured Hart’s curiosity. When Lee came online, Hart described the man and his behavior. Seconds later, he was dragging Giosetta and Arik through the kitchen where he collected Matilda, and then urged them down to the underground tunnel system. “Hurry. Move!”

“Hart, what the hell is wrong?” Arik’s irritable questions were cut off by the thunderous boom that shook the house. “What the fuck was that?”

“Rocket launcher,” Hart replied tersely. “Guy in the garden.”

A second explosion, followed by the odor of smoke had Arik cursing under his breath as he herded Matilda and Giosetta toward the far corner. “Come on Hart! Into the tunnel!”

Hart was yelling into his communicator while he rushed behind them, dodging falling debris. “Get the fire department!”

They tumbled into the tunnel and Hart slammed the heavy fire door behind them. “Son of a bitch! Good thing most of my clothes and belongings are still down at the carriage house. He didn’t get my shoes.”

“What makes you think the carriage house is still standing?” Giosetta asked wryly.

“Oh, no. If he burned up my shoes, then it’s war!”

As part of the celebrations for our new releases, Amarinda and I are launching The Amarinda and Anny Contest

What could be better than kicking back with a good book? Winning two books - one from Amarinda Jones – Knock Three Times and one from Anny Cook – Kama Sutra Lovers. Fantastic. You want more? Be the envy of all with two hand made hair piks to adorn your locks. But wait – there’s even more! How about munching on a delicious care pack of Aussie treats? One lucky reader will win all of this.

How do you win this fantastic prize? Go to and and answer an easy question -

If trapped on a deserted island what two things could Anny and Amarinda not live without? The answers can be found on the websites. As soon as you have them email with your answers – there will be 4 in all.

The contest starts 18th July and closes midnight 23rd July 2008 (USA EST). The first correct entry drawn at random will win the prize. Good luck.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Guest Blogger: Nancy Hunter

Welcome to Nancy Hunter, author of Taste of Liberty, out now from Cerridwen Press:

The wonderful ladies and gentleman who have invited me to join their blog this week made some excellent points about the state of America’s health care system. And despite differing views, I think most would agree that all Americans do not have equal access to health care, medicine, and health insurance. What needs to change to make that happen? Our priorities. Citizens, elected officials, and lawmakers have to decide our access to quality health care is more important than profits, lobbyists, and campaign contributions.

We as Americans also have to face some truths. One is that our government does indeed pay into the healthcare system. Billions of tax dollars go into the system each and every year. In fact, the US government pays more per capita into its health care system than our northern neighbor, Canada, pays into theirs, which is *gasp* a socialized medicine system.

And while some believe that the free market system keeps our health care system more competitive and therefore more effective, another sad truth is the statistics don’t bear out this claim. In a 2006 report from Save the Children, an extensive study revealed that the US has the second worst infant mortality rate in the developed world, ranking only above Latvia. The report stated the main contributor to this abysmal ranking is that “the United States suffers from disparities in access to health care”. So, bottom line - while we have more neonatology beds and specialists and equipment than other developed nation, we can’t save our babies if they don’t have access to these phenomenal resources.

Okay, not-so-subtle segue alert! My Cerridwen Press release, which is an historical romance with a paranormal twist, is set during the American Revolution. The heroine, Liberty MacRae, becomes a healer and medicine woman for the Ocanneechi Indian tribe while living with them so she can learn to track and destroy her enemy, the brutal British commander who killed her father and brother. Below is the pertinent information and an excerpt from the book that just came out Thursday! I hope you’ll check it out.

Taste of Liberty
by Nancy Hunter
(click on the cover for more information)

Blurb: In a time of war and hope, loss and redemption, death and rebirth, tragedy unites two enemies who seek vengeance and find love, only to learn that it was never their destiny to be together…

Liberty MacRae, daughter of an American Revolutionary, and Sebastian Cole, a British soldier, share a vendetta against the brutal British commander who killed their loved ones. Each brings a special gift to their quest – Liberty has a second sight that allows her to predict death, and Sebastian is a Fated One, a man who died before he could kill his enemy and has been sent back by the spirits to complete the task. When they fall in love, they have to find a way to defeat not only the murderer, but destiny as well - a destiny that demands that Sebastian either forfeit his life to defeat his enemy or forfeit his soul. Can they find a way to change their destiny before Liberty’s most harrowing premonition - that of her lover’s death - comes true?


Sebastian was silent.
Libbie couldn’t tolerate the distance between them. She needed him to hold her and look into her eyes the way he had at the inn, to make her feel as safe now as she had then.
“At the inn, you were going to tell me something about the night we met.”
He leaned toward the mantel for support but winced when his shoulder brushed against it.
“You can tell me while I check that.”
“No, it’s fine.”
“I’m in a better position to judge that than you are. My skills saved your life in that cave. You trusted me then,” she told him as she stood and stepped in front of him. “Trust me now.”
Her hands trembled as she reached for his tunic and lifted it over his head.
She noticed bruises on his neck and gently touched one.
“A souvenir from Norton,” he answered her unasked question. “No damage done.”
He did not pull his gaze from her as she reached toward his shoulder but he lifted his hand in the air to protest. She slowly pressed her fingertips against his. Sparks danced between them as she pressed the length of her fingers to his, then flattened her hand until they stood palm to palm.
Sebastian pressed his free hand against the small of her back and pulled her body against his. He moved his face slowly, carefully, toward hers. She stopped breathing as their lips touched, then pressed more firmly together. His mouth was strong and demanding. She responded in kind, blocking out everything in the world except the warm feel of him.
He moved his mouth over her cheek and chin, planted gentle kisses along her jaw, ran his tongue down the length of her throat. With one last lingering kiss he lifted his head and looked into her eyes.
“You made me feel alive that night. I can’t explain to you what that meant, what it means to me to be near you, to touch you, taste you.”
She reached up to wipe a tear from his cheek. He caught her hand and kissed it, then closed his eyes, pressing out more tears.
“But knowing me put you in danger. I had to get away from there, from you, to protect you, to keep you safe. God, I wanted to give you that but I couldn’t.”
“No one could.” She leaned against him. “I know how fragile life can be. I know that no one can keep me safe every minute of every day. But there are things you can give me. Important things.”
His lips nuzzled her ear. “Tell me,” he whispered.
She swallowed hard. “This heat. This passion.”
He ran his fingers down the length of her spine. “Is that what you want from me?”
She nodded. “Since the moment I met you.”
“Libbie, I know I don’t deserve you. I don’t deserve these feelings you bring to me. But I was so afraid I’d lost you tonight. I prayed I could hold you just one more time, even though I know it’s wrong of me…”
“No, Sebastian, this is right. So right.”
Their lips met again in a deep kiss that left her quivering. She pulled away from him just long enough to let him lift her shift over her head and drop it to the floor. His gaze roamed over her, leaving a heated blush in its wake. He pressed his bare chest against hers as he gently kissed her eyes, then nipped at her earlobe. He ran his tongue over the pulse in her throat.
Libbie gasped at the small, scintillating touches.
Sebastian stroked her back, her buttocks, her thighs, pausing only to pull off his own breeches. Then he bent lower until he was kneeling in front of her. With his upturned mouth, he kissed one breast, then the other, flicking his tongue teasingly over her throbbing nipples.
Libbie moaned as he pulled her down to kneel with him, his hands caressing every inch of her. Her unpracticed touches were less gentle as she rubbed his dark chest hair and small, smooth nipples, which rose to hard points under her fingertips. She lingered over his rippled stomach and slowly traced the soft line of hair that began under his belly button.

With one hand supporting her back and the other wrapped in her hair, he crushed his mouth against hers. His erection pressed insistently against her belly. She leaned back, pulling him toward her. Her desire for him had turned into a feral, instinctive need to feel him deep inside her.
He stopped, suspending her just above the blankets. “Are you sure? There will be no turning back.”
“I don’t want to turn back. The past is full of pain. I just want this time, this place. This moment with you.”
“I’ll be gentle, love.”
She dug her nails into his back. “No! Not gentle. I want your passion. Make me feel it. Make me burn!”
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Friday, July 18, 2008

What Can We Do?

We all have horror stories involving either health care, insurance or both. To say that both industries are in need of reform is an understatement. Sadly, I doubt this will ever happen. There is just too much money changing hands in the right circles to let a little thing like screwing over the bulk of our great nation get in the way of overstuffing already overflowing coffers.

I blame a lot of the soaring cost of medical expenses on our litigious masses. We as a nation have arrived at a point where we sue at the drop of a hat. Now don’t get me wrong, there are legitimate complaints out there that should be compensated, but they are bogged down in the system by the people who are just looking for a quick buck. I don’t understand the underlying sense of entitlement that must surely be the root of this phenomenon. They have it. I want it. I’ll sue for it. Sounds like a great way to make a living to me… of course, it probably comes with a pretty heavy karmic cost.

Malpractice suits seem to be an easy target for these “get-rich-quickers”. Every time they sue, win or lose, it costs money. But who foots the bill? Sure the docs have malpractice insurance (as well as several other forms of insurance, depending on what variety of procedures they’re willing to perform in-office) and that cost is figured into their overhead. But when they get sued, the insurance spends money to fight the case and since they are no longer just accepting money, but now having to shell it out, they raise the rates (if not outright cancel) of the doctor’s insurance and he is forced to A) pass that increase along to his patients (which the insurance companies will reject because they above the “norm” or it will cost more out of pocket for the underinsured) or B) try to recoup some of the losses by adding items to insurance claims. Unethical? You bet, but I also say it’s inevitable.

Then we have the patients who stiff doctors on medical bills. I’m sure most of the time, it’s just because they really can’t afford to pay the bill, but there are those among us who don’t pay because they flat out just don’t want to. Should the doctor just eat this cost? Whether you answered yes or no, odds are the doctor will only put up with that so long without some form of retaliation. He could either A) refuse treatment to patients who are financially unstable (if he doesn’t enjoy being a doctor very long that is) or B) try to recoup some of the losses by adding items to insurance claims of people who do pay.

Ok, so it sounds like I’m sticking up for the unethical practices of the medical community and to a certain extent I am, but only because I’ve had ample opportunity to discuss some of these issues with a few friends who happen to be doctors.

But wait…there’s more.

So, now you have a few rather expensive claims a year (if you’re lucky enough to have adequate insurance in the first place) start rolling in for your family. What happens next? Either your insurance rate is raised or if they find they’re paying out X % of what you’re paying in…you’re dropped. And how hard do you think it will be to find medical insurance once your current carrier drops you? Pretty effing hard I bet.

The only one who really wins in any scenario is the insurance company. But they really are a necessary evil. Without them, we’d either have to do with out and try to stay healthy or be reduced to socialized medicine.

There are far too many people right now doing without and there numbers are only growing with the shitty economy and rising costs of coverage. I don’t believe any of them would suggest this option.

And we come to socialized medicine. At various points in my life, I had an opportunity to see socialized medicine in action. It sucked. Yeah, the price was right, but the service was lacking. What would normally be a thirty minute doctor’s visit could easily take up to 8 hours of waiting. And if a hospital is only operating on what ever money the government deems necessary to keep the doors open, how well do you think the staff is paid? So, by the time you actually get back to see the doctor, nine times out of ten you find a surly person, who has half their thoughts on how they are going to make that month’s rent and all the patience of a jackal with its hind leg stuck in a trap. Tread lightly, it’s late in the day and they are fed up with all the bullshit they had to put up with from the patients before who came before you.

So, what’s the solution? How do we fix this? Maybe we can get the masterminds handling our Social Security issues to look into it. That’ll make me sleep better at night…

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bend Over

Well, a number of good points have been made by my colleagues. Interesting that this blog has evolved to be all US authors. I suspect there would be a good deal more variation if we had authors from Canada, the UK, Australia, or almost any other industrialized nation, where healthcare is not a private industry. So I guess I get to tackle the elephant in the corner: the government. Apologies in advance--this is going to be a rant.

When my children were small, the dh and I were both graduate students. That translated, at that time, to uninsured. The kids had every one of their shots and well-visits and everything else, no matter what. But one of my sons has some congenital health issues, so the insurance issue was a constant nightmare. So we sucked it up and went and applied for Medicaid (that’s the US government’s pitiful excuse for indigent healthcare). Not for ourselves, but for the boys. This lasted for about a year and a half before they decided they were old enough not to count any more. Neither of us (adults) saw a doctor for any reason during that time. Only the boys.

It is abominable how badly people are treated in the US when they apply for any kind of economic aid. The assumption from the first moment you walk in that door is that you are lazy, good-for-nothing jerks who only want to sponge off the government. You must suffer through the insults and rudeness to even be allowed to apply for assistance. You must face it again every single time you show anyone the card.

When my son was about 3, it was suggested by his daycare worker that he might have some kind of hearing problem. His pediatrician couldn’t tell us anything and referred him to an otolaryngologist—an ear-nose-and-throat doctor. There was one in the town—a highly regarded one in his field. But he did not accept patients with Medicaid. Period. Never mind that a toddler couldn’t hear—this man would have nothing to do with him. And yes, he was the only one in town.

So, onto the next county. One. He accepted Medicaid patients, but only if they came from within his own county. So too bad for us. Further on in an ever widening circle. Finally we found a specialist who would see him. The office was about an hour and a quarter away, which is a long ride for a cranky toddler, but we did it. Then we discovered he had so much fluid in his ears, he was probably only hearing on an occasional basis. Somewhere between diagnosis and surgery is when the medicaid ran out. The doctor was very helpful and generous in setting up the surgery—even donated his time so we only had to pay hospital costs. It only took us about four years to pay it off. Worth every bit of it. But I tell you, if that first local doctor ever stepped in front of my car, he’d have been nothing more than a smear on the pavement.

People in other countries grumble about the slowness or inefficiency of their government’s health-care programs. But at least they have them. The US is one of the only industrialized countries that blithely allows its citizens to go without necessary treatment because they can’t afford the thousand dollars a month for their heart medication, or the hundred thousand dollars for surgery. Every time it is brought up, our leadership says “but socialized medicine is bad.”


The free market system has given us some of the most advanced health care options in the world, but only for those who can afford them. Doctors expect to make 6, if not 7, figure incomes. Hospitals are often run by shareholders who expect profits. And the drug companies? There are studies that show a direct link between advertising costs and the prices charged for prescription drugs. Drugs were much cheaper when advertising them was illegal, but the drug company’s lobbyists got Congress to “fix” that little problem. They will tell you that prices are so high to cover the cost of research. But there is also a direct correlation between drug prices and the dividends paid to shareholders. The corporate structure is geared toward profit, not toward making you feel better.

The United States needs to make health care available to all citizens. Period. No doubt, such a system would be flawed, but not nearly as flawed as the current policy of indifferent neglect.

Apologies. I try to avoid political rants, but this one I just can’t let slide.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Padding and Neglect

This topic is so close to all of us because, let's face it, we all have to deal with the current health care industry plus the insurance industry which holds us captive to whatever they want to do. It's troubling. Yesterday, Kelly gave us her take on the insurance industry. I see her points but there are big problems with it, too. Their huge lobby in Washington doesn't help and tends to influence lawmakers rather than work to serve their customers.

But I don't see the insurance companies as the only enemy here and the best way I know how to illustrate that is by personal example. Years ago my son saw a local podiatrist to have inserts made for his shoes. We went to see this doctor twice. He made a plaster deal and that was about it. A little thing...right? Of course, this was sent to our insurance company and we received a copy of what the doctor had charged them. It was...gasp...OUTRAGEOUS. There was a huge list of things on the doctor's bill that had NEVER been done and he'd charged the insurance company for this. Do you see a big problem with this? We sure did. It was cheating. Bottom line. And it was clear this doctor was gouging the insurance company right and left.

In another incident, our son had a minor outpatient surgery at a local hospital. No biggie. Minor. He checked in and checked out within a few hours. The bill from the hospital to the insurance company and us was $20,000. I mean, this would buy someone a nice new car.

I also find interesting the differences when you buy generic prescription meds as opposed to the name brand. It's HUGE. We're talking a lot of profit for the pharmaceutical companies. The price of medicine is astronomical and we all have to pray we don't get sick because we're sure as hell gonna PAY. How do old people on fixed incomes manage this? I know. They choose between food and meds. Something has to change with this.

The line drawn between the have's and the have nots is widening and lengthening. On the news the other night they showed video of a NY woman who had collapsed, face first, on the emergency room floor of a NYC hospital. She laid there for two hours while several security guards walked by to only give her a glance. Same with a doctor who peeked around the corner at her a few times. No doubt, she was indigent but she was also DEAD. They left her there to die and raised no alarm when they saw her this way. Later the doctor and a nurse (who's falsified records about her time of death) were let go. But I find the lack of care appalling. Oddly, enough the same sort of thing happened on the west coast the week prior. A woman waiting in the emergency room falls out of her wheelchair and is sprawled in the middle of the floor with the same lack of reaction from staff. She laid there for two hours. They even had video of the janitor mopping around her prone body. She was dead by the time anyone got to her.

In these cases, both women were indigent, uninsured, and out of luck because no one Cared.

Yes. We have problems in the healthcare industry and they all revolve around lack of care, callousness, and GREED. We are supposed to be a compassionate country. Well, tell that to THESE people.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Behind the Scenes

As a consumer, I fully understand the frustration with not having the insurance company I need. In fact, we are between coverages at the moment because we can't be covered across state lines in the same program. In my search for Tennessee coverage I discovered a horrible truth. I fall between the cracks.

Here's the scenario. I have Blue Cross. In Indiana it is an elected coverage I buy for which I qualified without a hitch. In Tennessee it is an elected coverage but also the state run program for those who are ineligible for coverage by other companies. So if you can't be covered in Tennessee, BC will do it, theoretically.

That being said, though I've been a member of BC for a year, my Indiana coverage won't transfer to Tennessee. There are two reasons for this. First, crossing state lines means a transfer of coverage resulting in triple the cost I paid in Indiana. Secondly, I'm not in the height/weight ratio required for a transfer (ie/ I'm plump). I asked what weight and height I'd have to be and was declined an answer as there are those that would attempt fraud.

For Indiana coverage to transfer then, while I'm completely healthy with no other issues (no diabetes, high blood pressure, etc) I'm not eligible for coverage due to my ratio. BC told me to call their offices for the uninsurable in Tennessee for coverage. I did so and the answer I got was that I don't qualify for uninsurable coverage. Why? Because the only thing wrong with me is my weight. If I had a condition, then I would be eligible. Folks, this is the same company. Between state lines I fell through the cracks. One state says I'm not healthy due to my weight, the same company in a different state says I'm healthy despite my weight. I should be mad, right? Frustrated?

Okay, I confess to frustrated, but not at the insurance company. I'll tell you why. The insurance industry is a go-between. It is the mediator between you and another entity. When you are hired, it's between you and your employer. When you are unemployed, it's between you and the state where you reside. Insurance companies have a TON of plans. Everything from individual to group to third party administrators (where the plan is administered by your company specifically and the insurance party does no more than determine coverage for a claim).

This is where you say, "Geez, Kelly, isn't that what I'm talking about? The insurance company decides if I'm sick enough or sick with the right thing. Baaaad insurance company." Ahh. This is true BUT, and this is a huge but, each of those three categories of coverage (individual, group, and TPA) have many, many policies under each. YOUR COMPANY decides which policy they buy based on what they think the biggest coverable issues are. THEY decide, not the insurance company. The insurance company would be happy to sell their most thorough plan.

Here's how it works. Your company, state, or your pocket book tries to figure out what would best cover their particular issues and under what circumstances. They cover x surgery but not if x is associated with y. Or they cover x with this many days recovery. Or they cover x if it is not work related. Or they cover x if you haven't been diagnosed with x in the past (fill in the blank because this time period is also determined by your employer) months. ALL OF THE VARIABLES are negotiable by your company.

I worked for Prudential, Fortis, Assurant, Hartford. These are fantastic companies in the industry and it's ALWAYS THE SAME. It is really easy to blame the insurance company but what is actually happening is, your company purchased a policy of their choosing and time frame from the insurance carrier. Now the Insurance carrier is LEGALLY OBLIGATED to give your claim due process so that if fits the plan the company purchased. They are not allowed to cover you for things which the policy from your employer binds them on. THEY CANNOT. They also cannot ignore pre-existing conditions or waiting periods. Not because they are mean, but because they are legally bound to do so.

Other inside info? They don't have to read you your policy. Read it yourself. Know what plan you signed up for and ASK QUESTIONS. There is not a single company that won't explain it to you if you ask and all of them keep meticulous records. If you asked a question and it wasn't explained, have them pull up the voice file and fight. All phone conversations are recorded. Not just some. If you don't understand your waiting periods, ask. Read your policy. It's a contract and you signed your name to it agreeing to the conditions. Would you sign your name to a house mortgage without knowing your rate or term? No.

Your claims person is also obligated to work within a time frame. Every so often a notice must be sent out to you whether or not your claim is being worked on. But standards require that your claim be "touched" within the first 30 days. It's a law. Communicate with your claims handler. The harder they have to work to get information out of you, the longer it will take to get paid because they have to dig for it. If they ask you for a doctor update, get them one. Make sure your doctor has a signed HIPAA release on file and he/she knows that they should take the calls when they come in.

I sound mean. Sorry. This is a truth about the industry. My situation is based on my contract with the state and what the state (as my pseudo company) offers, not what the insurance company offers. Remember the insurance company wants to earn money and the more thorough the policy the better for them, however, they are bound by contract to offer you only what they've been permitted to offer.

You know the Afflac commercials? Why do you think the duck is telling you to tell your company about their plan which covers so much? Because the insurance company wants your company to offer it. If they don't, the duck can't help you. Talk to your employers, tell them what you want. Get a group together if you have to.

This is just the facts. Make an informed decision about your coverage and then work with it to get the best coverage you can. If you have two or three choices, look at them and see what you want covered. But the insurance company isn't the bad guy. They're just the accountants.