Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Reviews – and Why They're Always Valuable - Guest Post by Chaz Wood

Every writer needs reviews. That's a fact. Not every writer is great at going out there and soliciting total strangers to read their books and write about them, but unless you are a neo-Renaissance artiste who has devoted their remaining days to starving to death in a garret while penning poems of unrequited love with their own blood, then you will want some written publicity for your works. Most of what follows is written with the online world in mind, but the basics can be applied to any body or individual who review books, poetry or stories.

I won't go too far into the hows and whys of getting reviewed – except to say that I have never paid a penny for a review, nor will I ever. No offence to those who do, or who offer such services, but that's simply not my style. I would take an honest 2.5/5 score any day over a gushing 5/5 from someone who treats book reviewing as a business and who, having cashed my cheque, may feel duty-bound to sing my praises from the belltower. Good for the ego, not so good for sales.

While I've never had a truly bad review (yet!) I've had some that were better than others. Some reviewers have honestly admitted that a certain work simply wasn't 'their thing', which is as much my fault for not thoroughly checking out the reviewer's website or personal tastes beforehand. It probably goes without saying (says he, proceeding to say it anyway) that a little homework can help avoid the worst possible reviews. Don't send your sexy splatter-filled Satanic horror tale to a middle-aged Christian mother of nine, whose favourite book is Wind in the Willows. Try to pinpoint reviewers who operate within a certain genre - say, dark fantasy and sci-fi, or thrillers - as specialist reviewers will have a better grasp of the conventions and minutiae of the genre, which a general reader may not 'get', or comment negatively upon.

Having convinced someone to read your work, you need to prepare yourself for the result. Don't assume that a chatty, friendly email conversation will necessarily result in an awesome write-up at the end of it. Don't be cynical, but don't expect drooling adoration either. Aim for somewhere in the middle when it comes to how you take a review on board.

Don't let great reviews go to your head - it's only one person's opinion. However, enjoy the lift and the encouragement that those kind, glowing words give you - feel vindicated that all of your hard work has succeeded in making someone else happy. I remember when I got my first 5-star review on Amazon, I was genuinely moved that a random reader had cared enough about my work to post her thoughts online. Straight away, I left her a comment, thanking her for her kindness.

Similarly, don't let negative ones get you down - again, it's only one person's opinion. Take from them anything positive that you can, and don't instantly consign your manuscript to the fire because of it. Obviously, if five reviewers from completely different backgrounds all say the same things, then there is likely some truth in the criticisms - in which case, accentuate the positive and look closely at your work and how you can correct those issues in future to avoid a sixth kick in the teeth.

No matter the outcome, always be polite and don't argue with the reviewer once their words have been published. Thank them for their time - reading a full-length work of fiction, then writing about it, demands a serious commitment. If the review stinks, then accept it and move on. And don't make lame excuses either: “Oh, but it's still only a rough draft...”

Also, check previous reviews beforehand to ensure that the reviewer is at least competent. There are now insanely high numbers of book review blogs out there on the web, most of them very good indeed, but don't assume every reviewer with a free blog page is necessarily worth your time. If their own site is filled with typos, sloppy grammar and incoherent writing a la 'i likd it, it was funy' , then ignore them and find someone who actually seems to be literate. However, it's pretty unlikely that such reviewers would convince many readers anyway (such as those pointless 1-star reviews for products on Amazon which moan about totally irrelevant things, such as the packaging the item was posted in, or some problem with Amazon's delivery service or the order).

At the end of the day, if your review is worse than you could ever have feared, don't stress or get angry about it. To cheer yourself up, consider how many authors who are far more famous and rich than you have suffered rubbish reviews in the past, and in far bigger newspapers and journals than yours have appeared in. Of course, rich and famous authors will have their armies of fans who will purchase their works irrespective of reviews, but that doesn't change the words of negativity (nor did all rich and famous authors start out that way, either). Words may hurt, but they're still just words. Sometimes, a bitterly negative review can succeed in driving sales, by outlining things the reviewer disliked but which a passing reader may actually enjoy: for example, "...I hated it - filled with sex, swearing, and blood and guts..." could easily sell a work to those who enjoy that kind of thing, or who are not remotely offended by adult or extreme material.

For example, the first book in my 'Trinity Chronicles' series, Maranatha, opens with a rape and a double murder in a Serbian church, all within the first 5 pages. I had one would-be reviewer who couldn't get any further than that opening section, and I accepted her reasoning – I didn't press her into reading the rest “because it calms down after that.” If an individual finds something too disturbing, too dark or graphic, too silly, boring or confusing for them to cope with, then leave it be and chalk it up as an example of the old cliché about meat and poison.

Be judicious, too, in the excerpts of reviews that you choose to promote your work. An overall 2 or 3-star review may still contain some positive or colourful comments that look good on a back cover or a press release, and (assuming permission agreed beforehand with the reviewer) you'd be silly not to use them to your advantage. Try not to quote too heavily out of context, or cut and paste unrelated words and phrases to create something that was never said – that's only likely to get you into trouble with the reviewer, and a reputation for dishonesty. Ultimately, nothing is more important than your reputation. Be generous, professional and courteous at all times, with everyone and anyone in the industry (no matter how small – today's self-published blogger could be tomorrow's superstar) – you never know when you may meet them, or require their services, again.

Writer and illustrator Chaz Wood runs Fenriswulf Books, publishers of dark and quirky fiction, graphic novels, and more.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Nobody's Daughter and the Return of Courtney Love

I listened to the Hole album Nobody's Daughter for the first time today. I sort of vaguely remember hearing about this album a year ago, when it came out, but this is the first time I ever had the chance to hear it. It's absolutely brilliant.

Courtney Love is the only band member left over from the original Hole, yet the sound is essentially the same. The best songs on it are the title track, "Skinny Little Bitch" and "How Dirty Girls Get Clean." I liked them as much as I liked "Malibu." I'm always going to consider Live Through This as Hole's greatest album, and I also harbor a certain enthusiasm for the early Velvet Underground covers. I can easily see Nobody's Daughter fitting into my music rotation, though.

Although Courtney Love considers herself a feminist, this book blogger finds it interesting to note that Love has publicly feuded with author Camille Paglia. In a 1997 Q+A for Salon.com, Paglia unfavorably compared Love to Madonna. In a November '97 interview in Rolling Stone, in which Love appears on the cover with Madonna and Tina Turner, Love said Paglia's criticism did not hurt her. "I'm a secret Camille Paglia fan," Love told the magazine. "Her criticism of me is probably the only criticism I ever actually paid attention to - if only to argue about it in my head. But in terms of rock & roll, she just got it wrong. She applies all her wacky feminist theories to tribal dance music, and she doesn't understand Led Zeppelin or where it comes from."

The 1997 RS interview also contains my favorite Love quote ever. Love was asked about the female role model who most influenced her. She answered, "It changes all the time. It's like the 12 signs of the zodiac. What mood are you in? Are you in a Bette Davis mood? Are you in a Stevie Nicks mood? They're like goddesses. You use archetypes from popular culture the way Greeks used gods and goddesses."

Love her music or hate it, you must admit Courtney Love has a fascinating perspective on pop culture. If she's going to make albums like Nobody's Daughter, I hope her pop culture star is once again on the rise.

Friday, May 27, 2011

J.R. Ward is a great, and disappointing, storyteller. What about Blay and Qhuinn?

I've been reading Lover Mine by J.R. Ward, the 8th book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. I love this series. For those who don't know, the series is about a race of vampires who coexist with humans. Rather than feeding off humans, these vampires need to feed from the opposite sex of their own kind. The race was created by a goddess-figure known as the Scribe Virgin. Her nemesis, the vampire devil, is called The Omega. An elite clan of warriors, the Brotherhood, protects civilian vamps from The Omega's soulless army, the Lessening Society, or Lessers. The "Brothers" are not literally brothers (except Phury and Zsadist, who are twins).

Ward's writing style takes a little getting used to for those new to the series. She writes in a very noir-ish style. I believe she's heavily influenced by Robert B. Parker. She also invented a language the vampires use, which they call The Old Language. She peppers her novels with Old Language words like shellan and hellren ("wife" and "husband").

The thing about J.R. Ward's BDB novels that makes them so hard to put down is the way she keeps her pairs of lovers separated through so many hardships before she'll finally let them get together. That's the basic plot of every one of these novels, starting with the story of Wrath and Beth in the first book, Dark Lover. It makes for compelling reading, but can also be very frustrating.

At the end of the last book, Lover Avenged, Xhex had been kidnapped by the evil Lash, son of the Omega. John Matthew, the young warrior who can only speak in sign language, fell in love with her, but Xhex thought she had no room for love in her life. There's little doubt in this book that he will find her and that, when they get reunited, she'll accept his love. I've always liked John Matthew, so I was anxious for him and Xhex to make their relationship permanent. I love the twist, toward the end, of King Wrath accepting Xhex into the Brotherhood. Now they're going to have to call it the Siblinghood.

The storyline I'm really interested in, though, is the subplot involving John Matthew's best friends Blay and Qhuinn. Every single one of the Brothers is absolutely gorgeous, all six feet tall and pumped up like comic book superheroes. (My favorite is Zsadist--called Z--with his multicolored hair kept super-short, canary-yellow eyes that turn black when he's angry and terrifying exterior that belies how tenderly he loves his mate, Bella.) John Matthew, Blay and Qhuinn are the three youngest of the Brothers. Blay is a redhead with blue eyes. Qhuinn has one blue eye and one green eye, a trait considered a defect in vampire society that makes his aristocratic family look down on him.

Blay is in love with Qhuinn, but Qhuinn feels unworthy and doesn't want to be with Blay. (Blay feels especially rejected by this, since Qhuinn has shown again and again that he'll have sex with just about anyone.) In the last book, Blay seemed doomed to a life of unrequited love. This book introduced Qhuinn's beautiful, genteel cousin Saxton as a potential mate for Blay. There's a gorgeous scene of Blay and Saxton sharing a good night kiss. They'd possible make a great couple, but Blay's feelings for Qhuinn still aren't resolved, and Qhuinn gets jealous when he sees his friend with his cousin. I'd really like to see the Blay-Qhuinn storyline resolve, one way or the other, in the next book.

I'm really torn about which way I want it to resolve. I was deeply disappointed when Qhuinn rejected Blay, but now I'm kinda rooting for Saxton, a young lawyer who lacks his cousin's warrior physique but has lovely blond, curly hair. According to Qhuinn, Saxton is also a little slutty, but that may just be the jealousy talking. Then there's Layla, the female vampire who feeds Qhuinn and would like to be his lover. Maybe Layla and Qhuinn should get together in a future book. Blay, unfortunately, because he's gay, probably won't get to star in his own book, since every other book has centered around a male-female pair. I think I would be happy if Qhuinn paired off with Layla while Blay and Saxton stayed together.

Things don't always end happily, though--look what happened to Tohr and his pregnant mate, Wellsie.

The next book, Lover Unleashed, will center on Payne, the twin sister of the Brother known as Vishous. Payne has suffered a terrible injury and will fall in love with the human surgeon who tries to save her. I expect to read it soon.

This is an affiliate link:

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“Funny and clever and emotionally hard-hitting” "A perfectly creepy read." Elisa Catrina's debut novel begins as a quirky send-up of vampire romance, but quickly turns sinister. High schooler Stella Ortiz starts dating the mysterious new guy, but her friends are convinced he's bad news: Sebastian misses tons of school, he day-drinks something that smells like pennies, and oh yeah, he's a vampire.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Popsicles, Icicles and Other Not-So-Little Mermaid Songs

Earlier this week, I wrote an article for SexIs about Scarleteen and some of the other websites young adults can turn to for accurate sexuality advice. Today my writing mission, should I choose to accept it, is to start a scholarly-humorous piece about the association between fish and female genitalia. One of the research materials I've gathered is A Mermaid's Tale: A Personal Search For Love and Lore by Amanda Adams.


I've had this book from the library before, and I recall that it contains several versions of the European fairy tale of Melusina. I first heard of Melusina in 1999, when I was a college student taking a course on women and religion. One of the texts I read was Sexes and Geneologies by the French feminist Luce Irigaray, which introduced me to the half-fairy princess considered to be the mother of some prominent French families and the architect of a number of castles. (I'm thinking she's associated with Brittany, but that could be wrong.)

Melusina, whom I remember best as Melusine, was cursed by her fairy mother for the crime of imprisoning her human father. Once a month she turned into, depending on your source, either a mermaid or a snake-creature. Like the bean-sidhe (Gailge for "woman of the fairy mounds," appropriated by the English language as banshee), Melusine's cries can be heard to foretell the deaths of her descendants.

I found this fairy tale fascinating and stored it away in my brain for a decade. (Writers, in case you didn't know, are like walking encyclopedias.) Finally I wrote my own version, "Melusine's Secret," which appears in the Hearts of Tomorrow anthology from Melange Books. In my version, Melusine's transformation has less to do with fish or serpents...but I won't spoil the surprise. Suffice it to say there's magic and sexual exploration.

In the Disney version of the The Little Mermaid, Ariel loses her voice in exchange for legs to walk around on land. In the Hans Christian Anderson version, the mermaid gets her legs but must suffer terrible pain when she walks. In the midst of my dual crush on Indiana Pacers Reggie Miller and Rik Smits (see "Pairs of Really Big Ones"), I remembered this aspect of the fairy tale at the tail end of Rik's career, when he was having ongoing foot problems. Putting two and two together, I determined that the big, blond Netherlander was, in fact, a merman.

That's what I know about men and fish tails. Now I must be off to discover the secret behind women's tails and fishes. P.S. "Popsicles and Icicles" is an oldie pop hit for a singing group called The Murmaids, in case ya didn't know.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jennifer Wylie is our guest blogger today

Love is a funny thing. It's also such a general word. There are so many types of love, between friends, family, lovers, and so many levels of it. It can change over time. You fall in, you can also fall out.

In my debut novel Sweet Light, coming out June 1st, the main character Shara finds herself falling in love when she least expects it. (Isn't that always the way it is?) She is a healer, and that David is her patient doesn't help her confusion. She struggles between following her heart and doing what is expected of her. Just when things seem to going well she must face the arrival of her old lover. Finding she still has feelings for him tears her apart. On top of this, she discovers that her best friend, and David's cousin, is in love with her. When things go horribly wrong between her and David, she has to search her heart and decide on who she truly loves.

Love is never perfect, or easy. It can be cruel and threaten to break you. Sometimes you have to make a choice. When those choices are hard, you can only hope you make the right one and deal with any consequences.

Though a fantasy, set in another world, it is also full of romance. I hope readers will enjoy following the strings of love which wind around Shara and cheer for their favorite hero.

Love can be irrational. It can make you do crazy things. Trying to hold on to love, you may do things you never imagined you would.
What would you do for love?

Sweet Light will available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords and OmniLit.


Author Bio: 
Jennifer Wylie was born and raised in Ontario, Canada. In a cosmic twist of fate, she dislikes the snow and cold. Before settling down to raise a family, she attained a BA from Queens University and worked in retail and sales. Thanks to her mother she acquired a love of books at an early age and began writing in public school. She constantly has stories floating around in her head, and finds it amazing most people don’t. Jennifer writes various forms of fantasy, both novels and short stories. Sweet Light is her debut novel to be published in 2011.

She currently has a number of short stories published as ebooks thru Echelon Press and available at Amazon.

Jennifer resides in rural Ontario, Canada with her husband, two boys, Australian shepherd, a flock of birds and a disagreeable amount of wildlife.

My website: www.jenniferwylie.ca
twitter: @jen_wylie
goodreads:  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4499919.Jen_Wylie
facebook fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jennifer-Wylie/151266004895266
My blog: http://jlwylie.wordpress.com/

Friday, May 20, 2011

"Observe Education on Japanese Children from Anime and Manga," a guest post by Kevin

Have you realized that Japanese have already learned how to be a winner from anime they watched and manga they read in the childhood? Japanese children are educated to be persevering, collaborative, respectful to teachers, think independently, never admit defeat and never afraid of loss. Think it over: you will find anime like Flash Kicker, Slam Dunk, Dragon Ball, One Piece, Naruto, etc tell us stories of struggling for the desired target regardless of difficulty. Simply put, Japanese media consider children to be adults, rather than kids, and don't water down their stories.

Believe it or not, the best opportunities come when you are young, even a child. Education, neighbors, teachers, awards, interest in computers, knowledge of finance management, planning for life, independent thought, demands on yourself in the childhood directly decides your future.

Teachers will more love mature and sensible children. Intelligent and sedate classmates will be the most possible be the leaders. Kids in this kind will get much more opportunities in the growing path. So, have you found the king of children in a yard will gain more or faster approval from the society?

Japanese anime inspires us not to lose at the starting line. They are not only fictional stories, but also guides for people’s lives.

Author Bio : Kevin works for Miccostumes.com, a shop supplying cosplay items online, like Naruto Costumes. He's also busy with running his cosplay blog, where he shares something interesting in cosplay and anime.

My Two Cents (Erin O'Riordan) - I wanted to feature this post because, even though I'm not a manga reader (Twilight the Graphic Novel excluded, of course), I did grow up in the '80s. My first anime experience was Voltron. In the '90s it was Sailor Moon. Oh yes, and who did the English voice of Howl in Howl's Moving Castle? Someone I like, maybe?

Guest blogger Kevin makes the point that you are what you read, so read something interesting that's going to teach you a good lesson, but have fun doing it. Don't be afraid to explore. Personally, if I were going to explore any area of manga, I would probably start with yaoi/shonen ai. That's just me, though.

What are YOUR favorite anime or manga series?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Erin's review of 'The Transformation' by Natasha Rostova

An erotic delight. This book is composed of three linked novellas revolving around a trio of San Francisco friends: Lydia, Molly and Cassie. Lydia runs a fashion magazine. When her boy-toy photographer suggests a photo spread at Libri Antiqui, a used book store, Lydia has no idea she'll be so intrigued by the bookshop's owner, Nicholas. Lydia's frosty personality makes her tale the hardest for this reader to warm up to.


Much better is "Discovering Molly," in which the auburn-haired socialite is challenged, intellectually and sexually, by an adventurer-journalist named Harker Trevane. Harker is part Anderson Cooper, part academic/adventurer (think Indiana Jones/Robert Langdon/Daniel Jackson/Alaric Salzman). He also has a BDSM streak, which he pushes Molly to explore with him.

In the final story, Cassie, an English professor studying the three-way relationship between feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, poet/painter William Blake and painter Henry Fuseli, discovers her interest in Olive, Nicolas' assistant at the book shop. Scholarship imitates life as Cassie and Olive open up their new relationship to include Cassie's hippie research partner (and Tantric guru) Adler.

In a neat little footnote, Adler intends to study the relationship between Byron and Shelley. Even before I saw Gothic, I was intrigued by the sexual possibilities of Byron and Shelley, so aptly portrayed by Gabriel Byrne and Julian Sands in that film. I recently wrote a short story, "Hungry Things," that riffed on that relationship.

There are no traditional happily-ever-afters in The Transformation, but each woman enjoys the experience. Rostova acknowledges she based these contemporary tales on the skeletons of the classic fairy tales of the princess and the frog, the princess and the pea and Thumbelina. There are very few fairy tale elements in the resulting trilogy, but much to satisfy the grown-up reader of tales.

I purchased this book at Borders and was not compensated for this review in any way.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

"Get Nurtured, Loved, and Supported… BY YOU!" Guest Post by Joanna Lindenbaum

Mother’s day is a time to celebrate Mom but it’s also a great day to take time to be nurtured, seen, appreciated, loved, and taken care of. Not all of us are mothers BUT we all need mothering sometimes. Not everyone’s Mom was June Cleaver but here’s what I’ve learned: no matter how amazing your mother has been – no matter how much she loved and nurtured you – she is not perfect. No mother is.

In other words, none of us have found in our mothers the opportunity to ALWAYS be seen, always be heard, always have our opinion valued, always be given the benefit of the doubt, always be respected. As you grow up, as a side-effect, you might feel unseen, undervalued, and unheard. Maybe you were told that you were “too much” or “not enough” of something but regardless of what your story is, chances are that story had a HUGE effect on your life and how you see yourself. Right?

My mom did the best she could with what she had but she left some not-so-savory held beliefs inside of me. But I forgive her and I realize she’ll never be able to give me what that little girl inside me needs – full acceptance and permission to be my own person, which is essential to being a happy and healthy person.

Once I figured it out, I decided it was time to find that acceptance and happiness – and stop at nothing for that permission to be big and fully successful. What did I do? I found the Mother inside of myself. You can find her, too. Call her your inner Mother, Great Mother, Goddess, Big Mama… whatever you like but SHE can mother you into fully loving and valuing yourself.

Accessing her is easier than you think. You need to cultivate a relationship with her and one of the simplest ways to do that is to create a dialogue with her. It seems corny but try writing a letter to yourself from her. If you do ANYTHING today, it’s this little homework assignment – write a letter to yourself from your inner mother. Don’t be shy. I’ll show you what my inner mother wrote to me:

Dear Joanna,

You are so important to me. I see you and love you, for YOU, for who YOU are, not for whom I think you should be. I don’t need for you to be anything for me. I want you to be YOU. You, beautiful, you. You can be yourself with me, I will love you no matter what.

Because I see how valuable you are, how magical you are, how wonderful you are, how alive you are. I love every last bit of what I see, both in your strengths and in your imperfections.

Joanna, I don’t need for you to do or be anything. You owe me nothing. I am here to love you and keep you safe, and doing this and being in your gorgeous presence is ALL I need from you.

I don’t want or need or expect you to take care of me - I will do that on my own. I trust you and your instinct and your heart. I respect you. I honor you. And my wish is that you enjoy your life, and also remember to have fun often.

Love yourself fiercely, The Real Mama

What does your inner mother say to you?

Joanna Lindenbaum, M.A., has 12 years of teaching and coaching experience. As a life coach and founder of Soulful Coaching for Busy Women, she invites women to think bigger, to embrace their power, and to create more compelling and exciting goals for themselves. Her coaching philosophy centers on a deep respect for the inner wisdom that each woman holds inside of herself. By activating this inner wisdom, Joanna helps her clients achieve extraordinary success in business, career, and life. Sign up for Joanna’s free eCourse and overcome the 5 most common obstacles to the life of your dreams.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Review: 'The Bowl of Light' by Hank Wesselman

In this book, Hank Wesselman, Ph.D., an anthropologist who has spent extensive time with indigenous African peoples, details some of the wisdom he and his wife Jill Kuykendall gained from an extraordinary friendship with Hawaiian elder Hale Makua. In American English usage we use the Hawaiian word kahuna to mean "boss," but Makua was a true kahuna, a spiritual shaman.

Wesselman and Makua met at one of Wesselman's lectures. Given the floor to speak, Makua told Wesselman he'd read Wesselman's previous book Spiritwalker, talked about it with the Ancestors, and the Ancestors told him everything Wesselman wrote in that book is true. One of Makua's most memorable teachings is that "each of us comes into the world from the great beyond with our bowl of light," and we can either let the light shine or fill the bowl with stones (hurtful actions). When the light grows too dim, we must pour out the bowl and cast away the stones, allowing our bowls to shine once more.

Makua taught Wesselman the Polynesian lore of how the Ancestors came down from the stars, guided by whales and dolphins, the reason these creatures are so sacred in Hawaiian culture. These guardians gave the human race two assignments: grow, and love one another. Native Hawaiian spiritual teachings will be unfamiliar to most Americans, so this book serves as a wonderful introduction, just as Black Elk Speaks introduced Lakota teachings to mainstream American. People of all faiths can learn much from the late Hale Makua through this book.

In his work of fiction The Sacred Book of the Werewolf, Russian author Victor Pelevin wrote, "The energy that serves for the conception of life does not belong to people. Entering into the act of love, a human being becomes a channel for this energy and is transformed from a sealed vessel to a pipe that is connected for a few seconds to the bottomless source of the life force. I simply require access to that source, that's all."

Makua, like Pelevin's character A Hu-Li, believed this. Makua told Wesselman,"Sexuality is one of the great gateways to transcendent experience...In fact, sexuality is probably the fastest way we can reach spirit."

In another fascinating passage, Makua discussed the four directions. By traditional association in Polynesia, men correspond to the east and women to the west. Women and the west are also in charge of both healing and death and influenced by the planet Venus. This is remarkably resonant with the mythology I explored in the "If I Die Young" post. Greco-Roman civilization called Venus/Aphrodite the goddess of love, but also associated her with death. The rose was her symbol, the reason why we still bury our loved ones with roses. Aphrodite collected the souls of the dead in her dove form, as the Valkyries of northern European mythology swooped down to collect warriors slain in battle. The sun setting in the west is a natural symbol of death, so it all makes a great deal of sense that west, feminine energy and death belong together. Hawaiians, like the Greco-Roman cultures, believe in reincarnation, so death always brings the possibility of rebirth.

I received this book at no charge through the Amazon Vine program. I received no other compensation.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The House of Women - Guest Post by Anne Whitfield

Blurb: Leeds. 1870. Lonely and brokenhearted, Grace Woodruff fights for her sisters’ rights to happiness while sacrificing any chance for her own.

The eldest of seven daughters, Grace is the core of strength around which the unhappy members of the Woodruff family revolve. As her disenchanted mother withdraws to her rooms, Grace must act as a buffer between her violent, ambitious father and the sisters who depend upon her. Rejected by her first love and facing a spinster’s future, she struggles to hold the broken family together through her father’s infidelity, one sister’s alcoholism, and another’s out-of-wedlock pregnancy by an unsuitable match.

Caring for an illegitimate half-brother affords Grace an escape, though short-lived. Forced home by illness and burdened with dwindling finances, Grace faces fresh anguish –and murder– when her first love returns to wreck havoc in her life. All is not lost, however. In the midst of tragedy, the fires of her heart are rekindled by another. Will the possibility of true love lead Grace to relinquish her responsibilities in the house of women and embrace her own right to happiness?




Excerpt

Grace blinked to clear her frozen mind as her mother and Verity climbed the staircase. If Verity was here then was William here too? Movement at the door caused Grace to close her eyes. She couldn’t bring herself to open them and see the one man she’d longed for since she was sixteen.

‘Miss Woodruff?’ Doyle inquired at her shoulder.

Startled, she spun to face him, but she was blind to him, blind to everything but the sensation of having William here. Crazily, she wondered if she would swoon like a maiden aunt.

Doyle’s hand reached out, but he quickly tucked it behind his back. ‘What is it, Miss Woodruff?’

Grace swallowed, feeling the fine hairs on her arms and nape prickle. He is here.

‘Good evening, Grace.’

At the sound of William’s deep velvety voice, her heart stopped beating, only to start again at a rapid pace. Her stomach clenched and her legs felt unable to support her anymore. Slowly, she swiveled to gaze into William’s blue-green eyes and knew she was lost again. William smiled his captivating smile. He had aged, no, matured since their last meeting. He looked leaner, but broader in the shoulders. There was an aura about him, something that females of any age wanted. He made all other men around him seem insignificant. A magnetism, a mystical air surrounded him, catching Grace in its clutches once more.

Pre-order The House of Women from Amazon.com, or The Book Depository, which has free postage and currently on discount.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

"Ten Reasons Guns Are Better Than Men" by Rie McGaha

Leave a comment on Rie's guest post for a chance to win Blog Blast 2011 prizes!:

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I love my guns and I'm a good shot. I carry a Taurus Judge and I keep a 12 gauge next to my bed. When I practice I don't use bulls eye targets, I use life size man targets. And like my hubby always told me, "Don't be stingy darlin', always give 'em two, one in the heart and one in the head." Personally, I prefer aiming a little lower and about dead center.

10. A gun will never leave you for a better gun.
9. A gun will never compare you to another gun.
8. A gun never lies about its barrel length.

7. A gun doesn't mind if you admire another gun.
6. A gun lets you sleep in the middle of the bed and never hogs the covers.
5. A gun doesn't mind if you play with other guns.
4. A gun is ready to go any time you are.
3. A gun will never complain when you ask them to do a job for you.
2. A gun doesn't get soft just when you're starting to enjoy the action.

And the number one reason why Guns Are Better Than Men…

1.After they've fired all their rounds, they can be reloaded and ready to go immediately!

* * * *



Rie McGaha is an author, editor, and reviewer. She has more than a dozen books to her credit, and her recent release, Calen, the first book in the My Soul To Keep Trilogy, with the other two books being released later this year from Silver Publishing. You can join Rie, GA Hauser, & Stormy Glenn for Blog Blast 2011 (http://blogblast2011.blogspot.com/), on Blog Talk Radio, May 14, 2011 at noon CST, followed by a group chat at Erotic Promo.

GA Hauser – http://authorgahauser.com/
Stormy Glenn - http://stormyglenn.com/
Rie McGaha - http://www.riemcgaha.com/

An excerpt from Calen:

Calen dipped under the water to rinse and came up with a splash, and almost choked when he saw her standing at the water's edge, staring at him. Afraid to move a muscle, he feared she'd disappear if went toward her. He watched, mesmerized as she raised her hands and slipped the thin gown off her shoulders, letting it pool on the ground at her feet. He made a strangled sound as he drank in the sight of her nude body. Never had he seen anyone so beautiful. She took one slow, careful step at a time until she stood less than arm's length from him. Silent and still, he held his breath.

She reached out to him, placed her hand on his bare chest, and let her fingers slide beneath the water over his stomach. He placed his hand over hers and stepped into her. Reaching for her, he touched her silky hair, and let his fingers fall to her shoulders. She was so small, he thought as he looked down at her, the water that barely reached his ribcage rose to her chest, causing her breasts to float and making hard peaks of her nipples.

He grasped her around the waist and lifted her to him. Her hands laced around his neck, weaving through his hair as his mouth met hers and he drank. She opened to him with a sigh and wrapped her legs around his waist. His hands fisted in her hair, pulling her head back as he took the kiss deeper. The air sizzled and popped, the earth tilted, and the wind whipped the branches of the trees. Desire ripped through him, and he pressed her, demanded more from her, and she gave willingly.

His mouth bruised hers as their tongues mated, and his hands slid down her back, over her bottom, and he lifted her. The tip of his hardness pressed against her; with one movement he could be buried deep inside of her. A growl rose from his chest as he fought the urge to slam into her. He would not take her like this, not the first time. So he forced himself to break the kiss, to pull back, and sucked in a lung-full of air. She tilted her head as he looked into her eyes.

"Not like this," he said on a ragged breath and carried her through the water to the bank. He scooped up the gown she'd worn and carried her to the bed he'd made by the fire. He set her on the pallet and used a clean shirt to dry her, then slid under the blanket and pulled her in close to him. She curved into his body like she'd been made for him. He rose on one elbow and looked deep into her eyes.

"I don't even know your name." He kissed her forehead, her eyelids, and her cheeks.

"Arianna," she said softly.

"Arianna." He repeated her name reverently, like a prayer.

He kissed her again, gently, and sucked her bottom lip into his mouth. Her breasts pressed against his chest, and the kiss went deeper. She followed him, kissing him back like it was something they'd done time after time. Moving his hand down her body, over her flat stomach, and down her legs to the soft flesh of her inner thighs, his fingers searched, until she shifted, and he found the center of her heat. He moved a finger over her, and the downy hair parted for him as she raised her hips to him.

While gently stroking her clitoris, he watched her face. She gasped, and her eyes flew open. Gazing into her clear, blue eyes, he continued to stroke her. When she gave in to the sensation, her eyes glazed, and he slipped a finger inside her. His tongue flicked over his lips, then he kissed her again, while she wrapped her fingers in his hair and lifted her hips, writhing beneath him. Stroking the taut little nub, he brought her ever closer to the edge, until she dug her nails into his skin and arched beneath him, shouting her release.

Moving up her body, he sucked a nipple into his mouth and laved it gently as he positioned himself between her legs. When she looked up at him from beneath thick lashes, a contented smile curving her lips he slid into her slowly, stopping when she gasped. He kissed her temples, inhaled the scent of her hair, and forced himself to remain still until she relaxed again. He entered her little by little, stopping when he met the barrier of her virginity.

"It's going to hurt you," he whispered hoarsely. "I'm sorry, but it'll only be for a moment."

"I know." She kissed his lips and ran a finger over his brow.

"Hold on to me." He pushed into her, and she sucked in a breath at the intrusion. He stilled, allowed her to adjust to him and then moved slowly until he was buried inside of her. "Are you all right?"

"Mmmm," she purred, "more than all right."

"You feel so good." He moaned and pressed into her as far as he could. He moved. She moved.

"Just like that," she murmured.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Virtual Tour for 'The Smell of Gas' Rolls On

I'm telling true ghost stories at Sugar, Spice and Everything Paranormal today. Please join me for this, the current stop on the virtual book tour for The Smell of Gas.

Future tour dates:

Thursday, May 12 - My Hot Sex Storys - Explicit excerpt, plus some of MY favorite hot sex stories

Thursday, May 19 - Mila Ramos blog

Friday, May 27 - An Author's Tale - 4 Romantic Greek Myths

Tuesday, May 31 - Tour wrap-up at AO Bibliosphere



Friday, May 6, 2011

'He Said/She Said': Quite the Help Between the Sheets (Guest Post)


Anyone who has been in a relationship with the opposite sex knows that it's not always the easiest thing in the world. Men and women are different: They communicate differently, and most of the time, they want different things. Especially in the bedroom.

Liberty Kontranowski's He Said/She Said: What Men and Women Really Want in the Bedroom delves into the contrasting views and desires of men and women. But the author's a woman, you might be thinking. How can she speak for men? It's quite simple. Kontranowski interviewed nearly two dozen couples and sex experts to get both sides of the story.

Those couples are just like the rest of the world, facing the same obstacles and issues as the rest of us. And those sexual experts has experienced thousands of hours of couples therapy, so they know how men and women work when it comes to sex.

These experts condense all of that knowledge into the one most important thing that men and women should know—so you don't have to read through pages and pages of technical details. Instead, you get the most important advice about how to better please your partner from the most knowledgeable experts.

The eBook is filled with loads of tips and pieces of advice for both men and women to take into consideration. However, the one "rule" that stays true across the board is the Golden Rule: treat others how you would want to be treated. This leaks to situations outside the bedroom, meaning that we should show our partners how much we appreciate them, just as we would want to be appreciated and encouraged.

While He Said/She Said may at first seem like just another self-help book with a cheap price tag, it's actually much more than that. It takes a wealth of information and lays it out there so that any and all of us can understand it.

Katrina Robinson is a freelance writer and editor based in Charleston, South Carolina. She writes for edrugstore.md about a wide variety of topics including relationships, and health. Visit the Dating Coaches Section for Podcast Interviews of Certified Experts giving relationship advice.(Picture Credit: Amazon.com, Examiner.com)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"Spirituality v. Religious Piety" - Guest Post By Author Jackie O'Neal

Although I've written a book that encompasses spirituality, I was not always a spiritual person. I wrote my book Woman Priest in order to share aspects of my journey as a minister in the church, and commentary on world affairs, I believe the faith communities and individuals should be aware of, in terms of helping alleviate some of the suffering in our world.

I say I was not spiritual, in the sense that I tended to be more religiously pious in my walk as a Christian. Traumatic events can cause event the most religious person to question faith, doctrine,and dogma. After my grown son's passing on Dec. 14, 2009 as a result of a tragic train accident, I felt drawn to define spirituality for my life as part of the process of being distraught. Most of the dogma and doctrine most of us have been taught via our religious institutions, are noting more than human-made ideas having little to do with Christ's command: You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul, and all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.

In his book A Different Drum, author M. Scott Peck explains his concept of spirituality on Christ's command. Peck, at age 14, rejected organized religion, as he felt he was more intellectually advanced than his local preacher, who appeared to Peck to also be a fraud. His book characterizes the stages of spiritual development. Stage I persons who lack empathy for others, Stage II tend to be legalistic and attached to dogma and doctrine, and resist change. Stage III is characterized by strong individualism and skepticism. They tend to be on a quest for truth. Stage IV embrace the mysteries of God and creation, feel drawn to the inter-connectedness of things.

All of us may recognize these types of individuals, we may have judged them or rejected them all together. Would it surprise you to know that an atheist, may actually be more spiritually advanced than the average church-goer? This is because, as Peck suggests, they tend to seek more individual truth for their lives, and tend to be skeptical while questioning doctrine and dogma. Peck notes they are in Stage III of spiritual development, while the church go-er is at Stage II. So in point of fact, the atheist is closer to Stage IV which is the beginning of spiritual enlightenment, according to Peck's theory.

Another point Peck makes is that the ministers and healers, spiritual teachers need to know the stage of spiritual development the people they serve are in, in order to be an effective leader. I can give you an example, of an author I read about who during his childhood years in the 1940's was a gifted clairvoyant. He often shared with his family news of things to come. He would often receive psychic infusion of what the future held, good and bad. His mother, a devout Catholic, took him to consult with an exorcist, a clergyman who advised the boy to keep his gift secret, and consider one of God's burdens he needed to bear.

He listened to the exorcist's advice as he been taught never to argue with a priest. In hindsight, during his adult life, he came to understand the exorcist was essentially asking him to suppress an important part of himself which needed to be expressed. His self-esteem was shattered and years later needed to undergo rigorous therapy to overcome depression and ensuing guilt that plagued him.

What is most important is that each of us are on our own individual spiritual journey, have the freedom to explore and even question the tenets of our faith without being labeled a heretic by others. Not to take this road of exploration will impede our spiritual growth, and the guilt imposed on us by others will do little to bring us to enlightenment.

Let's keep in mind what author John Renard wrote: "Religion is often life affirming. It can also lull people into lethargy. Religion means being committed to a quest for answers that transcend appearances of things, but the quality of the quest has everything to do with the effort seekers are willing to invest."

Jackie O'Neal holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from the renowned Sarah Lawrence College Graduate Writing program. O'Neal is the author of two books WOMAN PRIEST and BORN IN THE LAND OF THE TANGO. Over the years her commentary has been seen and heard on The Huffington Post, USA Today, NPR-51% The Women's Perspective, NPR Blog,Seattle Post-Intelligencer.com, Ground report, The J.P. Godsey Show- WHKT 1650 AM, and PBS.

Visit Jackie online: http://borninthelandofthetango.wordpress.com/

Jackie Audrey O'Neal
O'Neal Media Group
http://onealmediagroup.presskit247.com
(609) 334-8621 (office)
E-mail: onealmedia@live.com

Want To Do Your Own PR? Join Us Monthly: http://www.wiziq.com/online-class/354603-pr-intensive

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Because It's There: How to Make Your Book a Reality (guest post by Angie Dixon)

My latest book just came out, and I’ve been taking some time to think about that.

I wrote my first book in 1997, and self-published it after it was rejected 104 times. That’s not a typo; there’s a zero in the middle.


My latest book, The Leonardo Trait: Create the Life You Were Born to Live (2nd Edition), is also a self-published effort, but only after I canceled arrangements with two publishers and decided to do it myself, to get it done after two years of waiting on someone else.

Quite a difference there, from a book no one wanted to a book two different publishers wanted, even if they didn’t carry through on their wishes. But the difference is not in the books (although The Leonardo Trait 2nd Edition is way better than my first book).

The difference is in me as a person.

When I wrote my first book, I wanted to write a book, and I did. I’ve written several since, and I love writing. But I also had to learn to love the process of being an author—with all the rejection and sometimes tedious work that entails. At one point, someone mentioned how “lucky” I am as a writer. I said, rather caustically, “It’s amazing how lucky you get when you sit down and work at it 60 hours a week.” The comment was about my “luck” in getting an agent. The truth was, I spent over 100 hours researching and querying agents. Luck was not involved. And that’s what I tell writers.

Sure, you may have a coincidence or a “bit of luck,” but you’re not going to become a successful author through luck.

That’s the good news, because if it’s not about luck, it’s completely in your control.

Of course, most people aren’t willing to assume that control, but when you do, your life becomes your own for the first time.

As an author, you need to know, and remember, who you are.

You are someone with powerful words that need to be expressed. And if you don’t tell your story or share your message, no one else will. No one else can. As an author, you have to persist and work and hang on even when you don’t think that you can, because you are the only one who can.

You have to do it because it needs to be done.

Keep writing and keep pushing forward because it’s there. And along the way you’ll experience a little luck, perhaps, but you won’t need it.

Angie Dixon is the author of the groundbreaking creativity book, The Leonardo Trait: Create the Life You Were Born to Live. Take Angie’s free creativity quiz at http://www.TheLeonardoTrait.com and discover your creativity style.

This is an affiliate link:

Celebrity Authors’ Secrets - The World’s Greatest Living Authors Reveal How They Sell Millions of Books by Stephanie Hale. $12.99 from Smashwords.com
Twelve of the world's greatest living authors reveal their tips for writing a book that sells over a million copies in Celebrity Authors' Secrets. A must-have guide - filled with publishing and book marketing info - for aspiring writers, authors, publishers, editors, writing coaches, creative writing tutors and anyone who loves books. Find out how to make your book stand out from the masses!

Monday, May 2, 2011

An Excerpt From 'Day of Revenge' by Deanna Proach

Emmanuel has known about Samuel’s intent to fight the revolutionaries for a number of months. But now, Samuel’s desire for revenge against the Robespierre government is more urgent than ever. That is why he sent for Emmanuel—so he can discuss his entire plot with him. As Emmanuel stands out of his seat, prepared to alert the servants and Madame La Font of Samuel’s absence, the familiar click of the entrance doors being opened rings throughout the large manor. Emmanuel stops.

His young, handsome face beams with a mixture of joy and relief. He lets out a huge sigh. He’s here. Nothing dreadful happened. Thank goodness.

“My God is it dark in here,” Samuel says upon entering the parlor.

“Emmanuel, are you here?”

“Yes, Samuel,” he says from out of the darkness.

A bewildered look appears on Samuel’s sun-kissed face. “If you were here the entire time, why in God’s name did you not light the candles in the wall sconces? You know perfectly well where I keep extra candles.”

“Samuel, I…”

“Never mind! I will have the servants come and light the room,” he says. “Have you eaten dinner?”

“No,” Emmanuel says. I would really like to know who Samuel was visiting. His curiosity gets the better of him.

“Samuel, I do not mean to interfere in your business, but what kind of errands would keep you away for more than two hours? Did you meet Monsieur La Metz?”

There is a long pause. A nagging pang of anxiety beats against Emmanuel’s chest. He rubs his sweaty palms over his legs. Oh no, I hope he doesn’t have terrible news.

About 'Day of Revenge':

"The French Revolution provides a vivid backdrop for Proach's passionate, fast-paced anti-"Vive le Republique!" historical romance debut. More than four years have passed since the 1789 Bastille riots, and the summer of 1793 finds a counter-revolutionary plot brewing against the bloodthirsty Citoyen Robespierre and his red caps. Young Lyon nobleman Emmanuel d' LeVasque and his family, along with other deposed aristocrats like Samuel La Font, fear Robespierre's next move after Jacobin Capt. Citoyen Henri Varennesh arrests their friend Pierre La Metz for possessing a counter-revolutionary letter. Varennes becomes disenchanted with Robespierre and eventually joins the counter-revolutionaries. After Metz is guillotined, a prison rescue of young Dauphin Louis is launched. Proach makes a valid point about Robespierre's fanaticism, and she also includes feverish romance: Emmanuel's brother Emil pursues a relationship with orphaned vineyard worker Elle, while Emmanuel is tempted by La Font's cousin Lisabetta. Featuring a well-developed cast of characters, this is a sympathetic portrait of imperiled French aristocracy." From Publishers Weekly.

About Deanna Proach:

Deanna Proach was born and raised on the southwest coast of British Columbia, Canada. She completed her Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in History at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, BC. She currently resides in Sechelt where she is acting and writing her second novel, To be Maria. Feel free to visit her website at www.deannaproach.com and her blog, http://desstories.blogspot.com.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

"Meditation: Poetry & Spirit" by Ruby Sara


hypothesis: plums contain
all that is necessary
for the elevation of soul toward
ultimate communion

with the dancer/wood/god/shadow
in the plum stone's heart,
weaving the coming-into-being
of dwarf stars and solar halos,
cricketsong and the singular acorn


Spirit, communion, god, love, soul, dreaming, holiness, death, eternity. Large, infinite, ineffable things, these. Nobody can properly or exhaustively catalog, quantify, define, or prove them. We can conceive of them, look at them, turn them over and around and contemplate them, but we can’t give them to one another like tulip bulbs or toast. And we can’t sum them up in a two-minute elevator conversation.

Still, we sense their presence. Human traffic moves and dances, and we ourselves roil and shift like galaxies…our souls moving around the red muscle of our hearts like burning suns. And because we feel these immensities in our lives, and because we are relational creatures, warm-blooded and social, we reach out to each other, opening our mouths, and the words spill over our lips and into the world, and so it is that the startling precious quality of our most human moments are preserved and shared. And we live our purpose, sacred artists mirroring the beauty of the universe back unto itself. And we hear god.

note the skin - like its cousins:
yellow peach, apricot, and bird cherry
(being a family of sunset fruits), it is
a mirror held to deeps - black honey
of the northern sky at winter's zenith


its waxy bloom
can be rubbed with a thumb, curtain
of stars and moss in contact -
hold a plum between your teeth
and exert fractions of pressure until
the ruby/cobalt/nocturne skin splits -
its red pulp, angry and savage sweet,
secretive stone, heavy with things unmade
and made


Yes, I believe that poetry is the language of god. That’s a heavy sentence – a simple jumble of words that contains within it galaxies of assumptions, ideas, falsehoods, truths, comparisons, emotions…like a palimpsest. Like a poem. I believe that poetry may be one of the most direct ways we human beings have of communicating with our gods – with the planet, the spirits and powers, the air we breathe, the water and wine we drink, the skin and bone we live in. Poetry is the language of dream and prophecy. The emotional language of the heart. The precise language of moment.

I might also say that poetry is the spiritual documentation of the human heart. The cataloging of that which impregnates a moment with meaning – the smallest mote of light or heat or breath moves almost imperceptibly to the left and suddenly a door opens in space and the face of god rests in the hand of some maple tree, or the trembling eye of spring rain.

Yes. The alchemy of experience in the realm of art. The universe, vast and open – a shocking, elegant and humbling expanse – pouring light down into our bodies, rushing and hurtling into our lungs and our senses, wind and breath, resting in the citrus rind of a desert at sunset, the grace of waking on the cusp of some delicious dream, and mingling with our tongues, our breath and our hands, to become intimate markers of our passing; poems are what is left in the wake of true relationship, that which exists in the space between my skin and the skin of god, dancing now near and now apart from each other, holy and human.

and, we shouldn't forget,
the spicy, exquisite pepper of
the plum blossom in the frigid
swept sky of early march - see:
some plant nursery, there is a woman, tired
and tired, with a tremor in her soft
hands, her eyes still pots full of rain,
her nose buried in the chest of
its scent, the young tree smooth
and flexible, and upon which,
there is almost
nothing left to say


Words are just fingers pointing at the moon. But in a poet’s hands, there are moments when words become the moon, and the moon becomes a silver dish of words, if only for a nanosecond. Reaching the place of being joined. Reaching relationship. Uncovering the place where the fact of Beauty leaves the mind and floods instead in a wash of bare branches.

Where all the holy, infinite and shattering universe can be found inside the wind, the rain…the weight and color of a single plum.

Ruby Sara is the author of the blog Pagan Godspell (www.gospelpagan.wordpress.com - note that this blog is now defunct), and the editor of Scarlet Imprint’s (www.scarletimprint.com) recent collection Datura: An Anthology of Esoteric Poesis. Come explore the rich and sublime realm of poetry with Ruby in her 6-week course on Poetry and Spirit, offered at LFAC beginning March 8, 2011!

Scarlet Imprint is accepting magical poetry through October 31, 2011 for its second collection, to be entitled Mandragora. You may read the details here.

The Wheel of the Year turns to Beltane. Blessed be!

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Meditation aims to focus and quiet your mind, eventually reaching a higher level of consciousness and inner calm. It may come as a surprise to know that you can meditate anywhere and at any time, allowing you to access a feeling of tranquility and peace no matter what is happening to her around.