Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I Join the King's Royal Yorkers

Last Saturday was a banner day for me. At last I donned my shift, pocket, stockings, garters, petticoat, bed jacket, apron and bonnet (Kady stole my fichu to stave of sunburn, or I would have had that on too!) plus a pair of leather buckle shoes to follow the drum!

The King's Royal Yorkers (modern version) is a re-enactment group based on the original regiment of loyalists formed in Canada to fight against the rebels during the American revolution. The gentleman who petitioned to be allowed to form the regiment, Sir John Johnson, lived in the Mohawk Valley in what is now New York State. He was a loyalist, and paid a heavy price for his loyalty to the Crown. Forced to flee his home, he made his way North, into what is now Canada. The rebellious Yankie Doodle Dandies had already pushed north but had been rebuffed, and the loyalist went on the offensive. They were a highly effective fighting force, and played a large part in keeping Canada free from the rebel forces determined to take over the entire North American continent.

This of course is the much shortened version, and doesn't truly begin to explain the hardships, triumphs and eventual defeat of the King's Royal Yorkers. For a comprehensive outline, please visit the King's Royal Yorkers regiment page and have a look at the other pages too. I must state though that the Yorkers were not defeated in battle, but by diplomacy. At the end of the war the Mohawk valley was in Loyalist hands, and they lost their homes via the Treaty of Paris. Canada could and should have been even bigger than it is now...

Hopefully I'll soon have a couple of pictures of the Thornhill Parade to share with you, and this winter I plan to kit myself out completely, including making myself a pair of stays! WOOT! I'll let you know how that turns out!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Be Still My Heart

Is there anything better than reading a phrase or passage that just makes your heart sing?

In need of comfort and inspiration, I turned to a couple of old favourites, the Lady Whistledown anthologies (The Further Observations of Lady Whistledown and Lady Whistledown Strikes Back). Now, with champion writers Julia Quinn, Karen Hawkins, Suzanne Enoch and Mia Ryan, you know you’re in for a treat. The star-crossed (or maybe I should say society-crossed) Regency lovers in these two books are enthralling, which is why the books survived my harsh pre-move purge. (I’m still crying over that loss. Book grief is insidious!) But Suzanne Enoch provided me with a moment that resonated so strongly I had to share. The following lines from The Best of Both Worlds, in Lady Whistledown Strikes Back made me catch my breath, and fall in love:

He smiled slowly, unable to resist running a finger along her cheek. “You are a challenge. And please don’t blame me because a shipload of very stupid men looked at you once and declared you uninteresting. I looked at you twice, and I saw what you are.”

Color crept up her cheeks. “And what is that?”


OH, MY...

If I were the swooning type, swoon I would. I could picture it, like a scene from a movie, and it moved me to go into my husband’s office and kiss him on the top of his preoccupied head. His grunt of acknowledgement only made me smile.

Now I remember why I read romances, and why I write them. Maybe one day, if I’m good and faithful to the craft, I can give a reader that same feeling. Oh, I hope so, because that’s what it’s all about.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


It feels like just last week I was grumbling about the fact that winter wouldn't go away, and suddenly here we are in September again. I noticed a couple of little trees with bright orange leaves and "cut mi eye" (a rude, exaggerated turning away) at them. I actually like Fall, but I'm just not ready for it right now.

There's something very evocative about the end of summer. The fall flowers, with their deeper tones and hardier blooms, seem to be saying, "You have to be tough, as well as decorative, to be at your best at this time of year." They are the last hurrah before everything dies back and Old Man Winter throws his snowy robe around the land. I always get a little more introspective, more contemplative, the cooler the weather gets. I find myself looking into the woodlots and gardens as I drive by, my imagination drawing me in, picturing what it would feel like to run between the trees. Sometimes I pretend I'm being chased, heart pounding, desperate for a place to hide. Other times I'm a part of the woods, a nymph or goddess (usually a goddess...I like the fringe benefits!)

When I feel there isn't another word worth writing left in me, and I'm wrestling with the 'whys' and 'hows' of being an aspiring author, those flights of fancy give me a much needed lift. Inspiration is all around us, thank goodness!

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Up, Down and Sideways

So we moved, arriving in the new town to the strains of Flogging Molly's Irish Drinking Song. Now, we're neither Irish nor heavy drinkers, but somehow, after what felt like months of packing, throwing stuff away, giving stuff away, and still not being able to get everything into the truck, a refrain of "Drink and drink and drink and drink and drink and drink and fight, HEY!" seemed appropriate. A good stiff shot of rum, followed by a knock-down, drag-out brawl seemed in order. But, of course, all we did was unpack, snipe at each other a bit more, and then pass out from sheer exhaustion.

At that point, I hadn't written a word in about three weeks. I get mean when I'm not writing. Bob Marley said "a hungry man is an angry man" and writing is food for my soul, so it stands to reason that I was tetchy.

New town, and the start of a two week visit from my Dad, all in little more than a week. New business for my husband and the job search for me. New school for the fifteen-year-old. The two eldest children, both at the age where they are beginning to build their own lives, decided to stay in the old town. I miss them, and they miss us, especially the nineteen-year-old, who lived with us right up until the move. Frazzled didn't begin to describe the family dynamic.

Two rejections on novellas...a sub where I forgot to use my email letterhead, and didn't send proper contact information. I felt like a dweeb, and couldn't help wondering if it were all over. How, I wondered, do you build a writing career if you aren't writing and can't get an acceptance and can't even remember the basics, like sending your address on a submission?

LOL! Enough wallowing! I love my new town. The rejections weren't the "You suck, go away" types. They were the "I want to see these again if you want to expand and rewrite" types, leaving the door open. I re-sent the sub, knowing it wasn't the best possible first impression, but hey, I'm human, ain't I? But, best of all, I'm writing again, and the ideas are flowing again, and projects I've put aside are clamoring to be finished again. The sun is shining and one of my best friends in the world lives right next door. The house, at this particular instance, is quiet.

What more could I ask for...

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Holy Hot Reviews Batgirl!

The Pearl at the Gate continues to surprise and delight me with the reception it's receiving. As well as the great reviews at MBaM and from Mrs. Giggles mentioned in my previous post, it also got two more wonderful reviews; a 5 Heart (!) one from The Romance Studio (read the review here) and a 4.5 Star from Manic Readers (read that review here).

I take my hat off to all reviewers. On the surface, as a voracious reader, I think it would be a great job. Under that though is a sea of difficulties. The number of books released each week is daunting; every writer wants a review, and wants it NOW; and each writer hopes above all to get a positive review, which can't always happen. Reviewers are people too, with their own tastes and preferences, and what they offer the public are their honest opinions.

Adding to the problem is the fact that writers also are people too, who get their feelings hurt when someone doesn't love their "baby." I know a positive review with even one caveat can make me feel like I'm under attack...fragile ego indeed! I'm forced to give my head a shake and remind myself everyone has a right to their opinion and, indeed, I would fight to the death to support that right. Get over it, and move on. Like Tom Hanks said, "Crying? Is she crying? There's no crying in baseball!" He may as well have been talking about writing. This business is not for sissies.

But every now and then a good crying jag can really clear the head!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Pearl at the Gate: the little novella that could...

Wow! When the Pearl at the Gate was released from Samhain Publishing on June 24th, I have to confess I was worried. My Editor, Laurie, had classified it as erotica, rather than an erotic romance, and I had just seen a discussion on the Samhain Cafe loop where some of the ladies said they had no interest in erotica, because of a lack of plot and emotion. I was gutted...First and foremost I see myself as a romance writer. Emotion is central to everything I write. Seemed to me, from that conversation on the loop, there were a bunch of people who wouldn't even give Pearl a chance because of the tag, 'erotica'.

Well, imagine my shock and intense pleasure when I saw two wonderful reader reviews at My Bookstore and More, got an 85 out of 100 from Mrs. Giggles, who makes no bones about her dislike of novellas in general (too short, with usually not enough character development, from what I gather) and saw Pearl rocket up the Top Ten Best seller's list, all the way to number 4!!

Okay, Laurie, I are an Editing Goddess. Remind me not to doubt you again!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The dreaded back story

The other day I started reading The Witching Hour by Anne Rice, while simultaneously re-reading Sense and Sensibility, and it struck me...both books start with a positive plethora of back-story. Jane Austin makes sure we know the set-up of the family long before she gets to the present situation and their move to a new location. Anne Rice could be said to intersperse the present between long chapters purely concerned with the past. And, you know what? I didn't have the urge to flip through or jump ahead. Not one thought of, "Oh, good grief, just get on with it, will you?"

So, that left me sitting there, wondering...what's all the fuss about with back-story? Judges in competitions and critique partners are always saying, 'too much back-story' even when you try to pare it down to the minimum. I've been guilty of that myself, telling my own crit partners to cut back on the back-story and scatter the pertinent bits around the rest of the story as needed. We've been brainwashed into believing back story=bad and terse present action =good. But the truth is that sometimes back story works, sometimes it doesn't.

As writers we try to find a host of ways to sneak the history of the characters into the beginning of the story, feeling the reader will be lost without it. We introduce key players and then have them go through the kind of mental introspective most of us only have at times of great loss or upheaval. That can grate, especially if the present action is abruptly cut by four pages of what the character was like from age zero on. Worse if they somehow find the time to do all of this in the equivalent of a nano-second. Or sometimes we start the story far in the past with a prologue, then cut to the present. I sometimes like that (and confess to using it on occasion) but the trick is to make sure the prologue is the actual start of the story, and chapter one the continuation. Often the prologue consists of information the writer really could have put in later, and in doing so upped the tension to boot.

In some cases the reader would be completely at sea without some back story, and we need to give them a foundation to stand on as we build the tale for them. There are types of characters who simply scream for a real introduction, because there would be few chances to elaborate on them later. Loners and taciturn people come to mind, since one of the most effective ways of introducing back story later is in conversation with others. In other cases, we really could just make the effort to find places and situations that allow us to bring the past in to the present.

I guess it's all a matter of what will work for the story but there's one more perspective to take into consideration. Unless you plan to self publish, you need to produce what will attract the attention of publishers and I've always maintained that I, as a new and aspiring writer, can't expect to get away what Anne Rice or Jane Austin can. If culling back story and re-working the book will get me the sale, then that's what I need to do. As long as my voice still comes through and I'm not cranking out homogenized, boring stories, I'm fine with it. When I'm as popular as Anne and Jane, I can more blatantly break the rules!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I'm baaack

Well, that was a heck of a hiatus! I've been slogging away at work and on a couple of subs, plus getting ready to move from one town to another. Blogging fell by the wayside for a while, but I'm finally coming out of the fog.

I'm very excited that my next novella, The Pearl at the Gate, will be released on June 24, 2008 again from Samhain Publishing. It's the story of Roake Barbenoir, who has everything a man could possibly want, wealth, social status, and the perfect Regency wife, Jenesta. The daughter of a Viscount, Jenesta is all he could hope for in a helpmeet, calm, capable and innocent. Yet Roake longs to shatter the very characteristics that first attracted him to her. In his dreams he is her demon lover, taking her to heights of passion he knows could frighten and repulse the gently raised Jenesta. He will do anything to protect her tender sensibilities.

With one act of defiance, Jenesta shatters Roake's resolution, discovers passion beyond her wildest imagining and risks losing the very thing she craves - Roake's love.

This is a very HOT, very explicit story, not for the faint of heart. Maybe one day I'll write something I can send my old Auntie as a gift...but this ain't it. See the new cover and read an excerpt at the Coming Soon page on the Samhain Publishing site.

Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Slow down, I'm getting dizzy!

It’s a very exciting time for me, on a number of fronts. As I mentioned in a previous post, Samhain Publishing graciously offered me a second contract and a tentatively early release date. I won’t say what that date is, because it can still change, but I really, really appreciate the faith they’re showing in my work, and the professional way they conduct business.

Knowing that they hope to slot me into the release line-up fairly quickly, they promptly sent me all the paperwork necessary to get the ball rolling. That included the first edits, which I just as promptly did and returned. Hey, if my editor, Laurie, is willing to make the effort, how much more willing should I be?

Working with Laurie has been great. Having never had more than magazine and trade articles published, I was dreading edits on my first novella. Magazine edits can be brutal. There is a finite amount of space magazine editors have to work with. Even when they give you a word count, and you stick to it, the piece can still be cut to accommodate photos or side bars. I like logic in my writing—point A leads to Point B, which leads to Point C, and so on. When my editor cut chunks out of my pieces, it also cut the thread of the story in places; and left me feeling it was no longer really my work.

Not so with Night of the Cereus. Laurie sent the manuscript to me with her comments and suggestions, and asked that I accept or reject them. If I wanted to reject them, she asked that I let her know why. That wasn’t the end of it. Instead, that was the beginning of the dialogue. There’s something so satisfying about being able to give an opinion and find out it’s been listened to and even if it isn’t taken on board, you’ve been told why.

I also appreciated Laurie not trying to put words in my mouth, so to speak. If she felt there was something missing, she would say so, perhaps even going so far as to explain what she wanted, but I was given the option as to how to fix it. I can’t speak to how other editors work, but to me this is ideal. I don’t know how I would like getting a manuscript back with new sentences stuck in, instead being asked to make the change. Everyone has a distinctive voice and even one sentence in someone else’s could conceivably stand out like a hooker in a monastery.

So, my second release is in the works, and I have a few more projects on the go. Life is one big rollercoaster at the moment, but at least this is a long weekend. Hopefully that will allow me a nice whack of writing time. So many stories, so little time! Happy Easter all, and Journey On!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

All love should be like this...

When I started this blog, I promised myself to stick to subjects more or less to do with writing. After all, I'm no movie star or international woman of mystery. My life is pretty prosaic in the grand scheme of things. I'm breaking that rule today, just because my heart is so full there is nothing else I could blog about this week.

I lost a very dear member of my family this week, my beloved dog, Skipper. To many people this might sound silly...after all, he was just a dog. Yet, he wasn't 'just a dog.' Skipper was a personality. He disliked most men, although he adored my husband and son. He was a great athlete, could run like the wind and jump higher than any other dog I've ever owned. He was a coward and was known to pee if frightened badly enough, but he was a loud coward, so he served his purpose in the watch-dog department. Skipper was an international traveller, having left Jamaica with us to settle in Canada, My husband forgot that many civil servants leave their sense of humour at home, and told the customs officer at the airport Skipper was a "Jamaican Bush Dog," and to date he has the distinction of being the only official member of the breed.

Yet, there was so much more. Skipper was a happy dog. He almost always had a smile on his face and his tail was always wagging, often in what we called 'helicoptor mode'; going around in circles and almost blinding the cats. He was the kind of dog who sensed when you weren't at your best and came to rest his head on your lap. He greeted us at the door, leaping straight up in the air so you could see almost his entire body through the glass at the top. You knew if anyone stirred in the house by the sound of his tail beating a tattoo on the floor or wall. He could charm food out of anyone except me...most of the time. Sometimes those liquid brown eyes were truly irresistible.

My daughter summed it up best. She was away when the decision was made that we could no longer be selfish and hold on to him, when he was obviously so ill and in such pain. When her father told her what had happened she said we made the right choice because, "he was so sad, and he was never sad, ever," before he got ill.

He was never sad, ever. What a wonderful epitaph. All love should be as happy, forgiving and selfless as that which he gave to us. We miss the love and the joy he brought to our lives and always will.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Uni-sex Erotic Romance

A friend suggested I do an article about why men should read erotic romances; or why men would or do read them. Really now—if men read erotic romances, I’m willing to wager it has more to do with the erotic and a lot less to do with the romance! To me, it was a no-brainer. There’s sex in them there books, and most men do so love sex. And if they’re not actively looking to have it, they’re probably quite happy to be reading about it.

It actually brought a very interesting fact to light though; one that bears some thinking about in my own life. When I wrote my first book, my loving Hubster read it from beginning to end. He made constructive and useful comments and suggestions concerning plot, characterizations and structure. Even now, with that book shelved, awaiting a possible (complete) overhaul, he still talks about it and asks when I plan to go back to trying to get it published. He honestly seems to love that book. That book was a historical romance, with no overt sex involved…

When I made the shift to writing erotic romances, my husband’s style of editing underwent a dramatic change. He no longer offered constructive criticism on anything, except the sex scenes. I would ask him if he thought a characterization in the story rang true, or if a plot twist was surprising enough, and his response would be a blank stare, accompanied by a bewildered, "Huh?" This was usually swiftly followed by a lewd and lascivious suggestion involving my need for additional research and his availability to be my guinea pig.

That’s when I realised he wasn’t actually reading the stories, he was simply skimming from one sex scene to the next…

So, to respond to my friend’s contention that men should read erotic romances, unfortunately in my house the opposite is happening. My Hubster hardly gets a chance to read my work anymore, because, damn it, I need constructive criticism, not a roll in the hay, which all I’ll get from him.

So, if he wants to read erotic romances, even mine, he’s gonna have to buy them like everybody else! Mind you, I may slip him one every now and then. After all, a writer really shouldn't neglect her research...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

What’s going on with Anya?

Besides the usual crazy round of work, family, nursing the dog (my baby’s not well, and is now officially the most spoiled dog in North America), here’s the latest…

Night of the Cereus excerpt now on-line
I’m so happy to see the excerpt for Night of the Cereus up on-line. I guess for more established writers it isn’t that big a deal, but for me it seems HUGE. Reading my own words on the Samhain Publishing web site makes it all suddenly official.

Exciting News!
I’m so excited…I just got offered a contract from Samhain for another novella! I won’t say anything else just yet, except that it’s historical, a little dark, and very, very hot! Stay tuned for news on the release date.

Well, I’m going to set up a couple of writer’s bios pages on the internet, and I’ll be interviewed in March by Amy Ruttan for Six Degrees of Sexy. That’ll be a hoot! I’m trying to carve out specific times to interact more on the internet, but it seems to me that the times I can go online, there isn’t a heck of a lot going on! I don’t think my boss would appreciate my using his time to further my writing aspirations…

What I’m working on…
Torn between two lovers…(picture me singing. Actually, please don’t. I couldn’t carry a tune even if you gave it to me in a paper bag!) Right now I have two projects that I’m working on, and one simmering in the back of my mind, fighting to be put down on paper. That third one is the spoiler. It’s jumping up and down, waving its arms in the air, shrieking and hollering. I have a sneaky suspicion it might win and get some air time this weekend. I’m also doing an editing job for a friend, and have a crit job patiently waiting in line too. After my brief hiatus between November and January, it’s nice to feel pleasantly overworked in the writing department.

What I’m Reading
Last night I rushed home to buy Shifting Passions by Xakara, and then devoured it in one sitting. It was amazing. Great characterizations, motivations, and sex. I just wish it had been longer! I’m still promising to get back to The Kite Runner, but honestly, when I’m writing, it takes precedence over my monster TBR pile.

And that’s about that. Talk to you again soon!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Journeys Through Seduction--Night of the Cereus

Life’s a trip: sometimes down a dirt road that seems to lead nowhere; other times down the yellow brick road to Oz, with our heart’s desire at the end. Of course, with cosmic irony in play, the dirt road often leads to Oz, and those yellow bricks take us nowhere but around in circles.

How can we tell the difference?

Usually we can’t, especially when we’re concentrating on simply putting one foot in front of the other. Or blithely skipping along, sniffing the poppies and not keeping an eye out for the open manhole covers! But that unpredictability gives life a certain flavour, whether bitter or sweet, that would be lacking if we could see the future. It holds true for work, play, school, every facet of our daily existence, especially relationships. Today’s ecstasy can be tomorrow’s heartbreak; last month’s knock-down, drag-out, argument can be the breakthrough leading to understanding, compromise, and growth.

In many of my stories the characters believe they have found their own personal truths and are set on a specific path. This is who and what they are—take it, or leave it. Decisions are made based on the knowledge they possess of themselves and the world around them. But life is a journey taken into the fog of the future, usually without even a glimmer of illumination, and when paths cross and personalities collide, anything is possible. Throw in sexual tension, seduction and surrender, and sometimes the explosion is enough to spread light for years to come.

In Night of the Cereus, Marcus and Melanie truly think they have it all together. He’s finally taking the next step as an artist; she’s content with the life she’s created for herself. Neither feels pressure to be in a relationship and, if they were, neither would logically choose the other. In fact, at the beginning of the book, Mel would rather be boiled in oil than get involved with an artist. Then, when they admit the attraction and decide to do something about it, each believes it’s only about sex.

Of course it isn’t. Instead it’s the beginning of a journey that starts with sexual seduction and leads them into the uncharted territory of each other’s heart.

And what a journey that turns out to be!

Night of the Cereus will be released on March 25, 2008, by Samhain Publishing and you can view the blurb (and the hot cover!) on the 'Coming soon--Night of the Cereus' page.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Plot-aholics Unite!

My husband complains writer’s brains are too complicated. Why, he asks, can’t things naturally flow from Point ‘A’ to Point ‘B’ without all the convoluted twists and turns? Why, he accuses, isn’t anything ever simple?

Yeah, right.

I can only think it’s a thinly veiled indictment of yours truly, since the Hubster loves complex spy-vs.-spy or suspense novels. Besides, what would be the use in a book without plot twists? No matter how hot the sex, handsome the hero, or feisty the heroine, if the plot is lacking, so is the book. Then there are no gasps of disbelief, unexpected bursts of laughter or welling of tears. In short, there would be no fun. No fun in reading, and none, whatsoever, in writing either.

Whether you call them plot devises, plot twists or simply plot, without it literature falls flat on its ass. Now, I have to tell you, I’m the person who covers their face when the effluvium is about to hit the fan during a movie or TV show. And it doesn’t have to be scary stuff, in the traditional sense. Embarrassing or shocking moments do it for me too. And if a book can sneak one of those up on me, make it so I don’t see it coming, figuratively not giving me a chance to cover my eyes, I love it all the more.

Let’s face it, we know when we pick up a romance there must be a happily-ever-after. If there isn’t, then it’s not a romance. And we’re told, ad nauseam, there are limited plots for writers to work with. With that in mind, a writer has to be able to inject the unexpected into their stories, just to keep the reader interested, and invested, in the tale.

One of the best examples I can give of a twist that snuck up on me was in Molly O’Keefe’s Undercover Protector, published by Harlequin Superromance. That book kept me up until one in the morning during a time when I sorely needed my sleep! But the best part was when she threw in a plot twist that literally had me flinging the book down on the bed and running out of the room shouting, “Molly, you didn’t! Molly, you COULDN’T!”

She did, she could, and man, I love her for it. Molly had me from the start with that story and kept me there with her ability to introduce new strands into the tapestry of the tale as she went along. By the end it was oh, so satisfyingly complete.

As both a romance novel and novella writer I’ve learned to approach the two sub-genres a little differently. In the longer format I have the luxury of using secondary characters and sub-plots to provide the twists. In the shorter format I find the same effect can be achieved with something as simple as a smile when the reader is expecting tears or rage, or a light-bulb moment at an inopportune time. You have to keep your characters true to how you’ve written them, but real life is hardly ever predictable, so your characters shouldn’t be either.

However, there will always be a certain level of predictability in romances. Two people meet, fall in love against the odds, or remain in love against the odds, and end up promising to stay together. Bless the writers who take that straight-forward formula and turn it into a delicious twisty pretzel for our enjoyment!

And can I add that Molly’s latest release, Baby Makes Three, is right up there as what I classify as one of my favourite non-traditional romances? I might have to use that one in a future post about characterization...something else Molly does sooooo well!

Monday, February 11, 2008

Why Romance?

Sex is great. It can be fun or intense. It releases endorphins and gives you that glow. It’s natural, an instinctive urge. Yet, although many women nowadays are far more open about their desire, both for having sex and for reading about it, I think it’s also safe to say that when it comes to books romances still rule. And not just the erotic romances, although they’re my personal favourites, but romances in general. We may like it sweet or raunchy, naughty or full of intrigue, outside the box (or the bedroom), sometimes with more than two people, or with same-sex couples but most of the time we demand the ‘happily-ever-after’ ending. Let’s face it, the sex may get you all hot and bothered but it’s the resolution, the knowledge of the couple travelling on together, that satisfies the soul.

I think that, just like sex, the urge to want things to work out between couples is instinctive. Anthropologist Desmond Morris explained it by saying pair-bonding has developed in our specie as a survival technique. Man is not a solitary animal. To thrive we have to interact and cooperate with each other. Pair-bonding allowed the men to go off hunting, assured that their women, who remained behind, would remain faithful. They also no longer had to think of their companions as competitors, but could concentrate on working with them. For their part, the women would be assured that whatever their mates brought home was for the benefit of the family unit, instead of having to share with that hottie-hottie in the next cave.

Of course things have changed, with women working as much as men, but it’s still basically the same. We have the same needs, the same urges—the changes are simply geographical. The jungle is the office. Bringing home the bacon means a stop at the supermarket instead of killing a wild boar. The hottie lives in the next apartment or works in the accounts department at hubby’s company. Or at the wife’s company. We constantly hear stories of infidelity and destruction of the pair bond. Unfortunately that seems to be a part of the way society has evolved.

But when we read, it doesn’t have to be that way.

When we pick up a romance we want to see two people, soul mates, finding answers in each other, even when they didn’t know there were questions in their hearts. In the world the author has created we seek the triumph of right over wrong and reassurance that everything will be perfect, or as close as possible to it, in the end. Maybe it’s a higher standard than we sometimes hold ourselves to, but it seems to be what we crave, what we dream of. And we want it to last, which is why we end the books where we do, leaving what happens after to the imagination. Without romance, both the real-life and the made-up, the world would be a very boring and perhaps chaotic place.

So long live the romance, both between book covers and between our bed sheets, and let’s live our own happily-ever-after, in whatever incarnation we can!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Queen of the Night

The Night Blooming Cereus, also known as the Queen of the Night, is a desert plant and part of the cactus family. For 364 days (365 on leap years) it really isn’t much to look at. In fact, some people consider it to be downright ugly. It’s scraggly. The leaves and stems indicate its relation to other cacti but they’re flattened and seem almost sickly. It’s a rather unassuming shade of gray rather than a healthy looking green. The Cereus plant I remember had twined itself around the truck and lower limbs of a Poinsiana tree, and for the majority of the time it looked one short step away from death.

But once a year, on a moonlit spring night, the Cereus would more than make up for its previously slouchy, lack-lustre, appearance. On that night the tuber-like buds unfurled into huge, glorious, creamy blossoms and released the most unbelievably hedonistic scent into the warm night air. My aunt, who owned the plant, would make an event of it, and that one night of the year it was guaranteed I would be allowed to stay up late, even if I had school the next day. We would sit on the veranda, the small ‘whistling toads’ chirping in the background behind the adults’ voices and laughter. Aunty June would keep the lights dim and the Cereus blossoms, stroked by the rays of the full moon, took on a soft otherworldly glow. And weaving its way into and around everything was that heady perfume. It was magical, a moment out of time.

The Cereus hides its true beauty, only revealing it when the time is right. There is nothing contrived about the moment when the blossoms unfurl. Instead it is natural, primal. In Night of the Cereus, when Marcus and Melanie first meet, the scent of the Cereus provides a backdrop for seduction. For one night the restraints they customarily operate under are released and they experience passion as sweet, as deeply intense, as the scent of the flowers. Instinct draws them together and a chance encounter blossoms into a night of sex so overwhelming neither will ever be the same. But Marcus and Melanie each have secrets that could destroy their fragile connection, and just as the beautiful Cereus blooms wither in the morning light, so could their newfound love.

Warning! The night and the man aren’t the only things that are hot in this novella. The sex’ll make you want to turn on the air conditioner, even in the middle of winter!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

What am I doing here again?

Born in Jamaica, transplanted to the ‘Frozen North’, writing has been a dream of mine for a long time. It remained only a dream until a few years ago when the simple truth occurred to me—I couldn’t become a writer if I didn’t write anything. A dedicated history buff, I happily penned two monster (and monstrous!) medieval novels before realizing I really had no clue what I was doing. It was the first of many such moments; when I had to decide what it was I wanted out of writing. Up until then it had been nothing but fun. Was I willing to put in the work necessary to actually get published?

I guess you can figure that the answer was, “Yes.” It was hard—it still is. I pictured the life of the writer being one of the secluded artist, toiling, sweating, crying, bleeding to get the right words on to the page, then happily sending the perfect, completed manuscript out and getting on with the next. Perhaps after a short break to pat herself on the back, eat a couple pounds of chocolate and sip a libation, or three.

I was so far off the mark I was in a different universe.

I had to learn the craft, then figure how to break the rules so that my ‘voice’ could come through without totally cheesing off readers. Then I had to figure out where, if anywhere, my work fit, followed by trying to convince editors I would be an asset to their organization.

I also discovered (to my horror) that I needed to market myself. A website at least. Preferably in conjunction with chats and blogs and appearances and talking to booksellers. For a behind-the-scenes type of person, it’s a real stumbling block. I’ve worked hard to get over my natural shyness but the realization I needed to ‘get out there and mingle,’ even just over the web, fills me with trepidation.

Yet here I am...writing my very first blog post and wondering, 'what am I doing here again?' Oh yes, connecting, communicating, trying to work up the courage to actually market my novella, 'Night of the Cereus', published by Samhain Publishing, which comes out on March 25, 2008.

Did I distract you, make you wonder what the heck a 'Cereus' is? Good...that's my marketing plan...the sneak attack! Come back soon and read my next post. I'll tell you about the Night-Blooming Cereus, and how this amazing flower fits in with my book. In the meantime, love a little more. It's easy, and keeps people wondering what you're really up to!