Sunday, July 31, 2011

Highlights of the Midwest Writers Workshop 2011

I first attended the Midwest Writers (no apostrophe) Workshop in 2007. Back then, the only book I'd written was The Smell of Gas (published May 2011) and I only had a few short stories published. This year I was lucky enough to get a scholarship to attend through my day job as a content editor for a career and education website.

MWW takes place in Muncie, Indiana, on the campus of Ball State University. You can tell Muncie is a college town, because all the liquor stores have signs that say "Kegs Kegs Kegs." We got there Thursday afternoon and left Saturday.

Thursday highlights:

Kelsey Timmerman gave the introductory talk...on underwear. He spoke about the perils of wearing charcoal-lined, flatulence-resistant underwear on a plane and the intense itchiness of disposable briefs. Timmerman is the author of the immersion memoir Where Am I Wearing. He went to Bangladesh to find out where his undies came from and ended up with a book on becoming a more conscious consumer.

He also warned us against bathroom-stalking the conference's agents.

Friday highlights:

The first session of the morning was a panel discussion with literary agents Lois Winston, Jessica Sinsheimer, Kathleen Ortiz and Roseanne Wells. Lois Winston is also the author of cozy mysteries including Assault with a Deadly Glue Gun. From the panel, I learned about several fascinating industry blogs/websites:

Janet Reid's Query Shark
Kristin Nelson's Pub Rants
Shelf Awareness
Colleen Lindsay's The Swivet: word counts for all genres

I also learned the 3 C's of the elevator pitch: character, conflict, choices.

Next there was a "Secrets to Getting Published" panel with thriller writer Mike Lawson. From this, I learned the importance of ARCs and discovered The Business Rusch and The Passive Voice. Later, Tit Elingtin and I attended a publicity session with Dana Kaye.

I then got great blogging advice from Jane Friedman. I'm guilty of many blogging sins, including posting on an inconsistent schedule and using Web images without permission or attribution. Since Jane believes one should try to use at least one image per post to add interest, I hereby resolve to try using Flickr Creative Commons and Wikipedia Commons to find images I can use legitimately.

In the evening, we had a pizza party and a writing contest. Neither Tit nor I won the contest and the $100 check, but I did have fun writing 100 words of time-travel fiction from a prompt. Especially since there was a cash bar.

We stayed at the Prairie Creek Reservoir campground in our tent. There was a fierce thunderstorm tonight. We were safe, and somewhat amused, by listening to the rain falling on the tent and the flashes of lightning. The one thing that disappointed me about Prairie Creek was that I didn't see one single snake. One of the reviews I read suggested there would be snakes.

Saturday highlights:

A delicious, if not particularly diet-friendly, breakfast of mixed veggie mini-quiches and donut holes accompanied an informal Q&A session with conference participants in small groups. Tit and I talked with Mike Lawson about thrillers, then talked with Kathleen Ortiz about YA fiction. Later, we talked to Kathleen one-on-one about a nonfiction YA project I did under my other name. Kathleen is easy to talk to.

In between, we attended a session on plot with J.T. Dutton, then a session on perfecting a manuscript's first five pages with Lois Winston.

The drive home took us through Amish country. I saw horse-drawn buggies. Almost all the horses, I noticed, were chestnut. I only saw a few dappled bays in the field.
(Image: Rlevse - public domain)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gods and Goddesses - Guest Post by Elizabeth Aston + Giveaway!

Erin's note: Readers, I am chuffed (yeah, there's no good American word for chuffed) to have author Elizabeth Aston guest-posting at Pagan Spirits today. She's here to talk about her favorite ancient goddesses and gods, and how they inspire her fiction. She came with goodies to give away. She's the author of six volumes of historical fiction based on one of my most recent obsessions, Pride and Prejudice. She also wrote the contemporary novel Writing Jane Austen. Without further ado, here's Elizabeth:

Ever since I first read the Greek myths as a child, I’ve been hooked. What a bunch they are, those Olympians and all the lesser hangers on. Raw power, raw emotion, raw sex, raw everything. But subtle with it, tricky, untrustworthy.

Cross them at your peril, mortals.

And the stories are so fabulous (literally). You can hear them again and again, in their original form and as they crop up in various versions in literature and opera and paintings and ballet and goodness knows where, and never grow tired of them.

They’re archetypes, of course, and archetypes are great for writers. Here’s Ares, god of war, angry, hot blooded, wanting to kill. Here’s Hera, the nagging wife, but the one you want beside you when you’re in labour. Hestia, goddess of the hearth, offering you a warm drink and checking that the guest room is just right. Hermes, made of quicksilver, carrying messages, up to all kinds of sly dealings. Surly Poseidon, drowning men for fun and causing the earth to shake, Hades, guarding the under world, Hecate, goddess of the moon, Artemis, virgin goddess of the hunt, great Athene, who lives on in those glorious Power Marys of Piero della Francesca. Zeus, taking his pleasure where he wishes (and he wishes often); austere, dangerous Apollo…

And just think what they got up to, all that time on their hands, nectar to drink, immortality. Sex, for one thing. Lots of sex, much of it extremely dodgy, but they certainly knew how to enjoy themselves.

Do I believe in them? Of course not, how could I, modern woman as I am? However, I do have a Janus pot at my front door, to honour the god of the threshold, and a Medusa pot (her snaky glare deters burglars). And which of us hasn’t heard the call of the gods, at one time or another?

A favourite of mine is Dionysus. Not the fat, rackety Bacchus, but the glowing young man with a leopard skin. He’s trouble, he stirs everything up, but without him, life would be dull, dull, dull. He’s the god of wine, and he brings liberation, anarchy, upheaval and the unexpected. Dionysus is the Lord of the Dance, and that’s why, in Unholy Harmonies, my character Issur, another name for Dionysus, is a dancer, a classically trained dancer, who arrives as a dancing telegram in the house of Sadie, an abandoned wife, and proceeds to carry out a devastatingly sensuous strip tease.

He transforms Sadie’s life - that’s what he does, wakes mortals up to a sense of what life is truly about. Just as wine loosens our tongues and spirits and morals, so does this great god, the twelfth Olympian, bring chaos and ecstasy into our lives. And, just as Dionysus led the Maenads in a terrible dance that led to Pentheus's violent death, so, in the English village of Unthrang, Issur takes to the hills with his followers.

He’s a transforming god, and the other reason I like him is the wonderful love story associated with him. He came across Ariadne, stranded on a beach on Naxos by the faithless Theseus, and fell passionately in love with her. When she died, he set her among the stars, and her wedding diadem became the seven stars of the constellation Corona Borealis.

Who is the female counterpart of Dionysus, with his beauty and his wildness and the danger when you go too far? It has to be Aphrodite. We know her as the goddess of love, but she’s also a goddess of pleasure and merriment and delight. Aphrodite's attendants are Paidia (Play), Eudaimonia (Happiness), Pandaisia (Banquets), Pannychis (Parties & Night Revels), and Antheia (Floral Decoration). How’s that for fun? Yet, like Dionysus, she has a darker side, leading men to war and madness, as she did when she gave Helen to Paris and brought about the Trojan war.

Every novelist honours Aphrodite. Whether it’s a sensuous romance, with hot sex on every other page, or a coy romance ending in no more than a kiss, a deep and thoughtful tale of misery, an action-packed thriller - Aphrodite will be there, you can bet on it. Centre stage, or lurking deliciously in the shadows, she makes her presence known, and we instinctively look for her in everything we read.

Dionysus and Aphrodite are a great double act. They are about pleasure but also like all the gods, are not to be trifled with. Mortals do well not to thwart them or ignore their sinister powers - and that's true of all the gods and goddesses: Take care! But whether in the writer’s soul or out dancing in the hills, in an elegant drawing room or delighting in the pleasures of the bed, there they are, this troublesome and awe-inspiring duo, bringing joy and danger into all our lives, just as long as we hear them calling and let them in.

Links for Elizabeth Aston:
Site and Blog: http://www.atticabooks.com/ea/?page_id=45
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1029694174
Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/Elizabeth_Aston
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Elizabeth-Aston/e/B001HCTYPM/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_pop_1

The Giveaway:

Please comment below your favorite god or goddesses and enter to win a copy of Children of Chance, the prequel of the Mountjoy series. In one week, I'll pick a winner of this ebook! Available in any ebook format.

And for the Giveaway Grand Prize: Everyone who comments is eligible to win a lovely hematite bracelet and earrings seen here (http://www.charmsoflight.com/bracelets/Hematite_Hearts_Bracelet_Br-He-001.html; http://www.charmsoflight.com/earrings/Hematite_Heart_Earrings_E-He-001.html). I'll pick a lucky winner mid-October and can ship anywhere in the world. Good luck!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Wild Justice – Guest Post by Rick Dearman

Wild Justice by Rick Dearman
Available at Amazon for $0.99 on Kindle
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Blurb: “A gripping story of blood, revenge, love and fighting for what you believe is right even if it isn’t your fight…” The Civil War is over and the rebellion lost. Cheveyo the half-breed rebel is travelling to the frontier to start a new life with only two pure-bred horses and dreams of a ranch. But after happening on to the remains of a murdered family. He decides to give them the justice his family never got.

Using his skills and training to track down the killers and dispense justice he discovers these killers are just a few of the renegades working for the man they call Big Red. Crossing Red could cost him his life. It will take all of his skills to remain alive and a man of principle in the hellish frontier.
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I was very excited when Erin asked me to do a guest post on her wonderful blog. I decided rather than an excerpt from the book I'd discuss why I love the main character; Cheveyo.

The reason I love Cheveyo is because he is a reformer. He's fought his entire life for his moral code. Cheveyo isn't superhuman, he bleeds, he gets tired, hungry and struggles with his emotions. But his moral indignation drives him to right wrongs.

Cheveyo had a horrible life. His parents were killed in a massacre, he was adopted by barbarian tribesmen. Trained to fight in personal combat circles he had tattoos inked painfully onto his face with primitive needles. Recruited into a rebellion against a dictatorial King and his evil brother, he spent a long time in a prison after the war.

He joined the rebellion because of the “rape squads” sent out by the king's brother. He endured years of hardship, battle and deprivation but still holds his head high because he did what he believe to be right.

In this first book of the Frontiersman series the reader meets Cheveyo while he is stalking men who have murdered a family of settlers. Dispensing justice for a family unknown to him is a burden he picks up gladly. Although his methods are brutal and violent by our standards Cheveyo has many admirable qualities. He loves his animals. Mer & Seus the horses, and old Croaker the army mule with only one ear. His compassion for the unknown victims of a band of renegades started him down a trail of pain, anguish, and violence. But this same path leads him to his true love, a woman who sparks strange new emotions in his young heart.

The appeal of a man with a strong moral compass and the willingness to fight for his beliefs strikes a cord deep within me. I think we can all identify with redemption, second chances, and creation of a better life for yourself. We all have regrets and sometimes we wish we could start over and create a new life.

Cheveyo champions the attributes of conviction, independence, self-reliance and action. In a brutal, violent land he continues to keep to his principles. Hopefully you'll be interested enough in my friend Cheveyo to discover more about him by reading Wild Justice.

Rick Dearman
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Twitter: @RRDearman
Personal Website: http://rdearman.org
Blog: http://rdearman.org/wordpress

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Marlene Perez's stylish Dead Is series could be the cure for HP withdrawal


As I write this, the final Harry Potter film is making its debut on the big screen. J.K. Rowling’s books have been with us since 1997, and the film series based on them has stretched out over the past decade. It’s amazing to see how the films’ young actors have grown up before our eyes. Who would have guessed little Emma Watson would grow up to be so stylish?

Before you go into young adult fantasy series withdrawal, check out the Dead Is series by Marlene Perez. The books follow California high school student Daisy Giordano. Her mother is psychic and her two older sisters, Poppy and Rose, also have paranormal gifts. Daisy’s powers are developing, and it’s a good thing, because their hometown of Nightshade is full of paranormal residents. Even the jukebox at Slim’s Diner seems to be haunted.

Each of Marlene Perez’s characters also has her own sense of style. Here’s a quickie guide to some random fashion moments (both formal and everyday) in the Dead Is series, and a few hints on how you can copy the looks.


The book: Dead Is the New Black
The look: Rocker Chick
Quote: “She wore a naughty nurse’s uniform paired with leopard-print tights, six-inch white plastic heels, and a towering hot pink hairdo that was obviously a wig.”
Sexy Evil Nurse Costume, $27.66 - http://www.costumecraze.com/SA393.html
Leopard-print Tights, $10.40 - http://www.gojane.com/52302-stuff-leopard-print-tights.html
6” White Plastic Heels, $38.95 - http://www.funkypair.com/6inchexoticdancerplatformshoes1.aspx
Hot pink beehive wig, $39.95, http://bgalwigs.ecrater.com/p/12345307/hot-pink-beehive-spitcurl-wig




The book: Dead Is a State of Mind
The look: Daisy’s Perfect Prom Dress
Quote: “Samantha and Poppy both found their dresses, but everything I tried on was either too tight, too short, or too revealing. An hour later, I spotted it. It was strapless, pale gold with a beaded bodice and skirt, and much more sophisticated than anything I’d tried on before.”
Pale Gold Strapless Taffeta Gown: http://www.romolloy.com/dress23.html





The book: Dead Is So Last Year
The look: Indie Librarian
Quote: “At the diner, I went back to the kitchen, but there was a stranger there with Slim. She was a short, curvy young woman with horn-rimmed glasses and blond hair, which was dyed with purple stripes.”
Oakley Women’s Horn-Rimmed Glasses, $195 - http://www.framesdirect.com/1/1/50553-oakley-women-pendant-2-0-12-483-brown-horn-eyeglasses.html
Hair dye in deep purple, joyride, pimpin’ purple, plum, purple smoke or wildflower, $12.99 each - http://www.goodgoth.com/hairdye.htm


The book: Dead Is Just a Rumor
The look: Pure Vintage
Quote: “It was midnight blue, with a square bodice and an ivory satin underskirt. There were little silk flowers at the waist and ivory embroidery at the wrists and hem.”
1930s Style Midnight Blue Gown, $130 - http://www.bluevelvetvintage.com/midnight-blue-classic-30s-style-hollywood-glamour-gown.html




The book: Dead Is Not an Option
The look: Casual Fridays
Quote: “She was wearing a skirt and a T-shirt with cut-off sleeves. Today’s tee read, PLEASE DON’T FEED THE DEMONS.”
Corduroy Short Skirt, $39.50 - http://www.victoriassecret.com/ss/Satellite?ProductID=1265530833613&c=Page&cid=1308310593787&pagename=vsdWrapper
“For a Minute There You Bored Me to Death” T-shirt, $8.50 - http://www.badideatshirts.com/FOR-A-MINUTE-THERE-YOU-BORED-ME-TO-DEATH-FUNNY-T-SHIRTWHITE-INK--P658.aspx

You don't have to dress up (or down) to enjoy Perez's novel series. If you like mysteries with a paranormal twist, solved by an intelligent teenage heroine and shaken with a generous dash of high school drama, the series is for you.

Image Attribution:
Emma Watson photo by Chris Marra - Creative Commons license
Nurse costume photo by Brian K - Creative Commons license
Purple hair photo by Charles Johnson - Creative Commons license

Other images via Pinterest

Need more fashion? Check out the couture collection - and daily deals - for men, women, children and the home at MYHABIT.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Hidden Lusts! Compare and Contrast!

Let's look at the same passage, first in Jane Austen's original Pride and Prejudice, then in two of the mash-ups based on it. This is Jane's take on a pivotal scene between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy:

"...While settling this point, she was suddenly roused by the sound of the door bell; and her spirits were a little fluttered by the idea of its being Colonel Fitzwilliam himself, who had once before called late in the evening, and might now come to enquire particularly after her. But this idea was soon banished, and her spirits were very differently affected, when, to her utter amazement, she saw Mr. Darcy walk into the room. In a hurried manner he immediately began an enquiry after her health, imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that she were better. She answered him with cold civility. He sat down for a few moments, and then getting up walked about the room. Elizabeth was surprised, but said not a word. After a silence of several minutes, he came towards her in an agitated manner, and thus began:--

"'In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.'

"Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement, and the avowal of all that he felt and had long felt for her immediately followed. He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority, of its being a degradation, of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.

"In spite of her deeply-rooted dislike, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man's affection, and though her intentions did not vary for an instant, she was at first very sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience, when he should have done. He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavors, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther; and when he ceased, the colour rose into her cheeks, and she said,--

"'In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot--I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to any one. It has been most unconsciously done, however, and I hope will be of short duration. The feelings which you tell me have long prevented the acknowledgement of your regard can have little difficulty in overcoming it after this explanation.'

"Mr. Darcy, who was leaning on the mantel-piece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise..."

Then, in 2009, Quirk Books came out with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, with improvements by Seth Grahame-Smith. Grahame-Smith's Elizabeth is a martial artist:

"...While settling this point, she was suddenly roused by the sound of the door bell; and her spirits were a little fluttered by the idea of its being Colonel Fitzwilliam himself, who had once before called late in the evening, and might now come to enquire particularly after her. But this idea was soon banished, and her spirits were very differently affected, when, to her utter amazement, she saw Mr. Darcy walk into the room. In a hurried manner he immediately began an enquiry after her health, imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that she were better. She answered him with cold civility, scarcely able to believe her luck at his happening by so soon, and waiting for the opportunity to excuse herself and retrieve her Katana. He sat down for a few moments, and then getting up walked about the room. Elizabeth was surprised, but said not a word. After a silence of several minutes, he came towards her in an agitated manner, and thus began:

"'In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.'

"Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond expression. She stared, coloured, doubted, and was silent. This he considered sufficient encouragement, and the avowal of all that he felt and had long felt for her immediately followed. He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness than of pride. His sense of her inferiority, of its being a degradation, of the family obstacles which judgment had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit.

"In spite of her deeply-rooted bloodlust, she could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man's affection, and though her intention of killing him did not vary for an instant, she was at first very sorry for the pain he was to receive; till, roused to resentment by his subsequent language, she lost all compassion in anger. She tried, however, to compose herself to answer him with patience, when he should have done. He concluded with representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavors, he had found impossible to conquer; and with expressing his hope that it would now be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand. As he said this, she could easily see that he had no doubt of a favourable answer. He spoke of apprehension and anxiety, but his countenance expressed real security. Such a circumstance could only exasperate farther; and when he ceased, the colour rose into her cheeks, and she said,--

"'In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned. It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot--I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned you pain, but only sorry because it has been most unconsciously done. Before you walked through that door, I had resolved to strike you down, sir. My honor--nay, the honor of my family, demands no lesser satisfaction.'

"Elizabeth presently lifted her dress above her ankles and struck a basic crane pose, which she thought well-suited for the cramped quarters. Mr. Darcy, who was leaning on the mantel-piece with his eyes fixed on her face, seemed to catch her words with no less resentment than surprise..."

As I alluded to in a previous post, the latest mash-up is Pride and Prejudice: Hidden Lusts. It's published by Cleis Press and improved by Mitzi Szereto, "With heartfelt appreciation to Miss Jane Austen for her kind patronage (with some additional encouragement courtesy of Mr. Colin Firth).":

"...Elizabeth was suddenly roused by the sound of the door bell; and her spirits were a little anxious that it might be Colonel Fitzwilliam. Perhaps by having compromised herself in his company, he had concluded that she was a woman of reckless morals and had come to take from her what he felt was his due. After the events of the afternoon, that he should behave in so ungentlemanly a manner would not have surprised her at all. As she readied herself to fend off his advances, to her utter amazement Mr. Darcy walked into the room.

"In a hurried manner he immediately began an enquiry after her health, imputing his visit to a wish of hearing that she were better. When Elizabeth acknowledged that she was, Darcy sat down for a few moments and then, getting up, walked about the room. His demeanor was most agitated as he came toward her and said,'In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.'

"Elizabeth's astonishment was beyond expression, and for some time she could not speak. Her silence Darcy seemed to take as encouragement, and he went on to speak eloquently of his warmth and ardor for her, though there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed as well. He chronicled his sense of her inferiority and that of her family, concluding his speech by representing to her the strength of that attachment which, in spite of all his endeavors, he had found impossible to conquer. In expressing to her his hope that it would be rewarded by her acceptance of his hand, he reached toward the flap of his breeches and began to unbutton it.

"Till now Elizabeth had been in such a state of disbelief at his declaration, followed by anger at his review of her circumstances, that she had not taken note of his condition. Before she could put forth a reply, Darcy released his manhood from the confines of his breeches, displaying it fully to her. As she watched, he proceeded to stroke it, his fingers moving with practiced fondness along the sleek surface, traveling from tip to base, and then back again. His member was of considerable length and girth, making it a worthy rival to that which belonged to the chorister, if indeed, not its superior, and Elizabeth very much suspected that it far surpassed even Wickham's impressive specimen. The nest of curls at the place from which it sprang were darker than those on Darcy's head and looked nearly as silken, and for a moment she imagined herself passing some very pleasant moments twining them around her fingers.

"Since Elizabeth had never before been offered a proposal of marriage, she was uncertain if this manner of courtship was at all customary. Her friend Charlotte had never spoken of Mr. Collins' application to herself; therefore she had little basis for comparison, though she could most assuredly comprehend the practical nature of a gentleman's wish to make known his every asset to a young lady on whom he had set his sights. Darcy squeezed and pulled at the length of himself with his fingers, as if compelling it to grow still larger in what appeared to be a heartfelt attempt to impress her, paying particular attention to the roll of flesh near the tip, drawing it repeatedly down to reveal to her what lay beneath. Elizabeth detected a tiny bead of moisture that had gathered there like a drop of dew on a rose petal, and she fought a curious desire to lick it away with her tongue. The image of her doing so set off such a powerful reaction in the place of her womanhood that she was required to bite down on her lip as distraction lest she took a hand to herself--or worse still, her tongue to Darcy.

"In spite of her deeply rooted dislike, Elizabeth could not be insensible to the compliment of such a man's affection, nor to the appeal of what promised to be a most excellent representative of manly pleasure-giving, though her intentions did not vary for an instant. 'In such cases as this, it is, I believe, the established mode to express a sense of obligation for the sentiments avowed, however unequally they may be returned,' she began. 'It is natural that obligation should be felt, and if I could feel gratitude, I would now thank you. But I cannot--I have never desired your good opinion, and you have certainly bestowed it most unwillingly. I am sorry to have occasioned pain to anyone.'"

I'm reading this last version right now and very much enjoying it! In some places, I miss Miss Austen's somewhat archaic prose. I also keep expecting Lady Catherine de Bourgh's ninjas. Can somebody write a mash-up of the mash-ups with both the lust and the zombies?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Interview with Visual Artist Christopher Chamberlain

Pagan Spirits: What drew you to erotic art?

Christopher Chamberlain: Some might say a pencil, but I prefer watercolour and brushes. Honestly, there's just an attraction there. I enjoy drawing women, and exploring the different themes is just something that is really inspiring. Creating new work is always a lot of fun. And I suppose Playboy had something to do with it, too.

PS: What inspired the BDSM themes?

CC: Exploration, and maybe a bit of reading. I came across some references to Shibari - the Japanese art of rope bondage, and I was just amazed by it. Certainly there are a lot of psychological factors going into the entire role play of it all, but the way that the ropes intertwine and layer around the body is very intricate and intriguing.

PS: In your experience, is it socially acceptable to make erotic art these days?

CC: I think perhaps people are more ready to admit that it is an art, and that they do like the art. However, I can't tell if it is really socially acceptable more now than it was. I do think however that it is more accessible. It's easier to find the people who do like erotic art, and support the artists, which could mean it's more socially acceptable, or just that it's easier to find the niche market. But, it has to be more acceptable now, because Playboy no longer even ships in a paper bag, or at least the black bag that replaced it.

PS: What does your wife say about your erotic art?

CC: My wife encourages it actually. Some pieces she likes, and some she doesn't. You can't please everyone all the time, even yourself.

PS: How old were you when you first started making art?

CC: Consciously, or at the least from when I can remember, I was around four. But there are examples of my artwork from before that. I won my first prize at a fair for my artwork when I was five. Part of me at the time thought, "Wow, I'm an artist."

PS: Which is your favorite medium? Do you prefer digital or the old-fashioned way?

CC: Whatever medium works for the effect that I want to achieve. Digital is really cool because there are a lot of effects that can be achieved that no longer require tons of expensive equipment and excessive ventilation. But, the experimentation is kind of lost. I love creating most of my work with my own two hands and no extra digital manipulation.

PS: Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

CC: In terms of artists? There are a few - one of whom gave me a really solid critiquing of my art a couple of years ago, and that really helped me focus and create better works.

Otherwise, I would definitely have to say my wife. She's given me the most support and helped me get to the drawing board, even on those days I didn't particularly feel like it.


PS: What project(s) are you currently working on?

CC: I'm creating more erotic artwork, some illustrations, and several projects that I cannot talk about at the moment for confidentiality reasons. For my erotica artwork, I'm actually creating a couple of different series, or themes. I'll begin sharing them on my blog once I have a good selection of pieces finished. Anyone can keep up with my blog where I post new works as they are created, and of course, figure sketches and studies for my erotica.

Also, I'm creating my fun, all-ages webcomic Kid Robo. It's a total departure from my erotic work. I love working in different styles and genres, and this is just a fun thing for me to play with.


For anyone of your readers who may be looking for artwork of all sorts, they can feel free to contact me and be treated very professionally. I take my artwork seriously, and I treat each piece with the same level of professionalism. I can be contacted through email:

manyfacesart@gmail.com

To see more of my work, and read more about my Not For Victorian Eyes virtual art tour, please visit my sites: www.c21.deviantart.com

I'm offering as a bonus, to all new followers of my blog, a chance to win an original print of one of my pieces of art. This contest will run until the 7th of August. Each and every follower of my blog will have a chance to win, including my current followers. New followers will have an extra ballot in the random draw. You can also get an extra ballot by leaving a comment. The best three comments (as chosen by me) left on my blog over the duration of the contest will receive a print.

PS: Why do you consider Neil Gaiman and Robert Howard your favorite authors?

CC: You did some digging - I commend you on that! For Neil Gaiman's work, I'm just really kind of smitten. The first thing I remember reading of his (where I remembered it was him writing it) was a short story in a magazine called "Troll Bridge." And that was about the same time that I picked up the Sandman, and the character Death, of the Endless. There's a big draw to his work for me - just the imagination and the themes that he plays with. And the fact that I love fantasy as a genre doesn't hurt.

I love Conan, as a character, and as the stories that were written by Robert E. Howard. He was a really prolific writer, and he created a large number of characters. His stories are just something that feels they were written with a lot of vigor and determination, and written with great affection for his characters. They all lived, and breathed, and some times died. Plus there is just something really cool about a wandering, well-muscled giant from the North with a pencheant for adventure and women.

PS: What’s your favorite comic book? You seem a little fascinated with Wonder Woman.

CC: I do like Wonder Woman, though she holds more interest for me now than when I was say, a child. There's a lot of interesting ideas and themes at play with her. No wonder she was created by a psychologist. I'm not really certain if anyone has ever really nailed down the true potential for that character.

Couldn't really pick one favourite comic book, there are lots of them that I love. Batman and the Hulk are probably my favourites. The Dark Knight Returns is one of my favourite stories. That, and the two Death miniseries that Neil Gaiman wrote.


PS: Favorite Garbage song?

CC: I love Garbage! That's cool that you found that one out. I'm waiting for their new album to come out, I think I heard something about a Christmas release date. "#1 Crush," "Only Happy When It Rains," "Special," "Queer," "Shut Your Mouth," and "I Think I'm Paranoid" would be my faves. Now I have to go listen to all of those albums!

PS: If you could turn any book (one that’s not generally thought of as an illustrated book) into a graphic novel, which would it be?

CC: Most of my favourite books have either already been illustrated, or started out with illustrations. Perhaps "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" or Neil Gaiman's American Gods. I'll aim high with what I want to illustrate.

CC: Thank you so much for featuring me on your blog, Erin. You asked some fantastic questions, and I really enjoyed answering them!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rereaders Anonymous - Guest Post by Emily

My name is Emily, and I'm a rereader.

It's a downfall. I mean sure, reading is good. I acknowledge that. It's just that I have such an extensive list of books I want to read that I really shouldn't be reusing my energy. And the classics! Let's not even start on how I didn't have required reading at Hillbilly High and there are ten jillion important books I need to read that it seems the rest of the world has already read.

But here's the thing - I'm picky.I start a book and within the first fifty pages I'm either reading like a fiend or I'm finding excuses to quit.

I'm so vehement about using my time wisely when it comes to books I don't really enjoy, but I will gladly invest...and reinvest...with books I love.

I've always done this. Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the few R.L. Stine's I could sneak past my mother...those got read repeatedly.

Then I discovered Stephen King. All bets were off for a while.

Then Harry Potter. The Hunger Games.

But here's the thing - not everyone can be Stephen King. Or Chuck Palahniuk, Augusten Burroughs, or any of the authors I've devoted myself to.

I find a niche - a comfort zone - and I become fiercely devoted. I suppose that's why I reread the ones I love. I fall in love with characters and stories, and terracing is like going to visit an old friend.

I've tried to join book clubs, recommendation groups. But it comes across as a little odd when I try to define my preferences. Horror, memoir, weird perverse and freaky? Yeah, try to define all that to the prims and propers of the Internet literary world.

So basically, until I find a new adventurous part of my anatomy, I will branch out...cautiously. I will read the ones I love again. And I will reserve my right to toss off a crappy book no matter how much the masses adore it.

Find Emily online at Emylibef, and while you are out there on the blogosphere, don't forget to stop by Erin O'Riordan's guest post on Joan Swan's blog.


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Friday, July 15, 2011

Is it St. Swithen's Day already? Pagan roots of a distinctly English holiday


The day is here at last: the release of the final Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two. J.K. Rowling has moved on; she is said to be hard at work on a new book, something completely different from Harry's world. It's the end of a great decade in children's literature, one that has amused me to no end. (I'm still not happy about Tonks and Lupin, btw.)

In honor of Harry Potter's ultimate film adaptation, I'd like to present a post that's as distinctively English as that fistfight between Hugh Grant and Colin Firth in Bridget Jones' Diary*. At its phoenix feather core, this post is also about a magic so strange and ancient it would make the late Albus Dumbledore proud.

July 15 is known in some parts of the U.K. as St. Swithen’s Day. The saint’s name is also spelled Swithin or Swithun. In the U.S., if the name sounds vaguely familiar, you’re probably a Simpsons fan. In the episode “Bart of Darkness,” a broken leg keeps Bart from playing in the Simpsons’ pool all summer, and he stays indoors writing a (strangely British) play:

[Cockney] "`Kippers for breakfast, Aunt Helga? Is it St.
Swithin's Day already?'
'Tis,' replied Aunt Helga…"

Kippers may or may not be eaten for breakfast on July 15, but the main food associated with St. Swithen is the apple. Apple farmers pray for rain on St. Swithen's Day, hoping for a good crop of apples in the fall, when they are harvested.

Apples were sacred to both the Celtic peoples of the British Isles and their Anglo-Saxon invaders. To the Celts, the gods lived in Avalon (Apple-Land), a magical place of immortality. Morgan, the death-goddess, could choose to bring living human beings to Avalon, as she did for King Arthur.

To the Norse cultures, the apple-land of immortality was tended by the goddess Hel in the far west. She had the power of reincarnation. The custom of roasting a pig with an apple in its mouth comes from their belief that food-animals could be reincarnated to return and be eaten again.

In accordance with the hope for future apples, July 15th is used for weather forecasting, like Groundhog Day (Imbolc). If it’s raining on St. Swithen’s Day, according to folklore, we’re in for forty more days of wet weather. If it’s sunny, the weather will be nice for forty days. (This phenomenon has actually been studied over more than 50 years, and it isn’t even remotely true.)

Swithen himself lived in England in the 9th century. He’s remembered as the founder of several churches. Sir Walter Scott mentions “St. Swithin’s Chair” in his 1814 novel Waverly. Scott locates the “chair,” actually the peak of a rocky crag, near a body of water called Loch Veolan in Scotland. Scott recounts a legend that if someone sits in St.Swithin’s Chair on Halloween, the “night-hag” (probably an owl; cailleach oidhche, “night hag,” is a Scottish expression for the bird) will have to answer three questions asked by the sitter.

“Night hag” is also an expression for a witch in bird form. Many goddesses are associated with the owl, including Greece’s Athena and Wales’ Blodeuwedd. If Scottish villagers associated St. Swithen’s Chair with asking questions of a witch or goddess-figure, the custom may be older than St. Swithen’s 9th century date of birth. Swithen may be a stand-in for a Pagan figure, or Christians who sought Pagan wisdom may have used his name to cover up activities that church officials would otherwise have frowned upon.


No one seems to know how the Christian saint whose feast day is in July became associated with the “chair," though it does seem connected with Halloween. October is the time of year when the apples ripen. Apples are still part of the symbolism of Halloween, as are owls. Some of us still bob for apples on Halloween, a custom that originated with the Celts, who may have associated the mock-drowning game with death. Agatha Christie certainly made the association when she wrote Hallowe'en Party.

The Celts did not fear death as our culture does, but considered it a return to the Goddess’ cauldron and a chance for rebirth. To be noticed by the Goddess in case they were killed, Celtic warriors painted themselves blue for battle. Blue represents ichor, the legendary “blue blood” divine beings possess.

*The Bridget Jones/Harry Potter connection: Shirley Henderson played Bridget's pal Jude and Hogwarts' resident ghost Moaning Myrtle. Authors J.K. Rowling and Helen Fielding have both been animated on The Simpsons.




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The Wheel of The Year. . by Maureen Murrish. $5.99 from Smashwords.com
The Wheel of the Year is a beginner's guide to celebrating the eight traditional pagan festivals of the the year.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New book trailer for 'Memoirs From the Asylum' by Kenneth Weene

It was August 2010 when I read and reviewed Kenneth Weene's scary-good mostly-fiction literary creeper Memoirs From the Asylum. It's especially eerie when, like me, you've worked in the mental health profession.

Now you can view the book trailer, courtesy of YouTube and Book Candy Studios:



Some day, I will figure out how to get Blogger to stop cutting off the right-hand edges of images I embed. I can write, I can edit, I can review books, but I have no more room in my brain for technical geek stuff other than the most basic HTML. You can view the unchopped video HERE.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Bad Good Guy (Guest Post by Gabrielle Bisset)


Thank you, Erin, for having me here today at Pagan Spirits. The other day one of my friends posted at her blog that my character Varek, the hero in my new novel Stolen Destiny, is her favorite “bad/good guy.” In truth, I think she hit the nail right on the head with that since he’s a man who’s spent three lifetimes in prison for a crime of passion he committed. Her comment got me thinking about my heroes and how they often have a lot of bad mixed in with their good.

Varek has been in prison for lifetimes because as an Aeveren, he is blessed with fifty lifetimes through reincarnation, and naturally, when one of them breaks a law, they often must pay by relinquishing a lifetime or more. When I began writing Stolen Destiny, I knew my hero would be an incredibly flawed man, but the idea of having him be imprisoned right before he meets the heroine, Callia, grew out of the idea that while he certainly is a very good man at heart, he has an edge to him that borders on bad. Out of that idea came the story of his being imprisoned in Nil, Aeveren prison, for three lifetimes for killing his first wife and her lover as they made love in his bed.

Varek is what all my heroes are: noble. Now some people may say a man who shot his first wife in a fit of passion is anything but noble, but his story is one of the most human of all. He’s in love with a woman and fears something is wrong with his marriage. He hesitates to investigate because he doesn’t want to know that everything he loves is built on a lie. When he finally finds out, he snaps and loses everything he cares about—his wife and baby girl. For three lifetimes he’s consigned to a life of suffering and butchery in Nil, a place like nowhere on Earth. He lives amongst far more serious criminals of his race, Aeveren who have intentionally murdered others and wouldn’t think twice about murdering him. He knows he’s to blame for the fact that his child was made an orphan by his actions, and he can do nothing but pray someday he’ll get the chance to try to make it up to her.

When Varek meets Callia, he has lifetimes of scars he carries with him, both inside and out. Their romance is predetermined because as Aeveren, they are destined for one another, just as he was with his first wife, but who he’s become in Nil doesn’t make the road to happiness easy. While there are other conflicts in the story, Varek’s past is always something the two lovers must wrestle with.

For me, characters are always multi-dimensional. They’re just more interesting that way. Varek is a man who has made mistakes in the past and doesn’t want to make another mistake with Callia. When he falls for her, he knows that the possibility of hurt is there like it was with his first destined one, and because of this, he fights what destiny has decided will happen. That he eventually gives in is a testament to the goodness in him triumphing over his past.

For an excerpt from Stolen Destiny (ADULT EXCERPT), go to http://gbisset.blogspot.com/p/excerpts.html

To purchase the book, go to http://www.bookstrand.com/stolen-destiny

To find out more about my writing, go to my blog at http://gbisset.blogspot.com

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Please Welcome Elizabeth Kolodziej, Author of Werewolf Descent

Pagan Spirits: Ideally, who would you get to star in the film version of Werewolf Descent?

Elizabeth: Hmmm. The only character I am really certain about is Zou Tai, I would place Rain from Ninja Assasin to play him. He is so yummy. For Trent I was thinking of something like a young Collin Farell with a little more curl in the hair. As for Faith, I have absolutley no clue, probably a nobody.

PS: What was the first book you wrote? How did you get it published?

E: The first book I wrote was when I was fourteen but the never got published. The first book I got published was Vampyre Kisses. I went through Strategic to get it published, which means paying a fee. For Werewolf Descent I have decided to start my own publishing business and cut out the middleman.

PS: Who has been the biggest influence on your career?

E: My father. Without him I woudn’t have the business savy I do now. He was always so supportive and loved to hear about what new journies I was taking next. He always believed I would get this to take off, he is what pushes me every day to keep going.

PS: Do you read for pleasure? If so, what kind of books do you like to read? Favorite authors or series?

E: Of course! I think that goes hand in hand. I think it’s just more difficult to get the time to read when you’re a writer. I read fantasy and romance books mostly but a good mystery is always fun. I have many favs but my top four are Tamora Pierce, Kim Harrison, Christopher Moore, and Jeaniene Frost.

PS: Other than one you’ve written, what’s your favorite werewolf book? Favorite werewolf movie?

E: I actually haven’t read many books that have werewolves as the main characters except for Keri Author’s books. For my werewolf characters I did more research on them then reading fiction. Fav werewolf movie would have to be The Wolf Man! The original though!

PS: Do you generally prefer werewolves or vampires in fiction?

E: It depends on how each is created. I can be picky with werewolves and vampires. Hehe. But in a toss up it would most likely favor vampires.

PS: What has been the most significant book you've read in your life?

E: The Tortall Series by Tamora Pierce. Those books are what really got my mind thinking and fantasizing about other places and different characters. I blame her for making me the writer I am today. Haha.

PS: What project(s) are you currently working on?

E: Currently I am about to start writing Witch Devotions, the 3rd book in the Last Witch Series. Along with some shorts for some anthologies I hope to get into. Along with all this I am trying to get my publishing company up so I can start offering services to other indie authors.




PS: After writing, what’s your second-greatest passion?

E: I know this sounds odd but marketing and promoting are something I really love. I actually just got accepted to do my Graduate study in that field. It’s just fun for me.

PS: Do you have any other artistic abilities - painting, music, drawing, etc.?

E: Actually yes, I am not too bad as a painter, I took classes while in college and came out with some really neat stuff. I do like creating my own music on GarageBand. I even created the music for the Werewolf Descent Trailer. Drawing is ok as long as I have a teacher showing me how to do this and that. Over all I am just pretty creative, it’s the only side of my brain that works!

PS: Do you like chocolate? If so, dark or milk chocolate?

E: Now that you mentioned it I must have it! lol. And I prefer milk chocolate.

PS: Where can readers find you online (social networks, Goodreads, etc.)?

E:
www.facebook.com/ejkolodziej
@ejkolodziej
www.vampyrekisses.com
For Goodreads just search my book or name.
And if you need more than that well…I’m probably on it!

PS: I have to ask you this because you live in Wilmington - have you ever seen the Simpsons episode where the family goes to Delaware?

E: LOL! OMG I totally did! No one ever talks about DE, its like the forgotten state! But actually Restaurant Impossible was just at my office filming and they will be going to a restaurant in the area tomorrow. How awesome is that?

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Eminent Domain on BlogTalkRadio

Hear me roar! I read the first chapter of Eminent Domain on the Edin Road Radio Show on BlogTalkRadio. If my excerpt doesn't start playing automatically, click on the one that says "Erin O'Riordan," and I will have a direct link to the free podcast as soon as it becomes available.

Listen to internet radio with EdinRoad on Blog Talk Radio
To get your copy of Eminent Domain by Tit Elingtin and Erin O'Riordan, visit CreateSpace (https://www.createspace.com/3783860). Or get a copy signed by both authors at our Etsy shop, Writer's Brain Has Wings (https://www.etsy.com/listing/207325539/eminent-domain-signed-by-both-authors).

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Contrivance, Suspension of Disbelief and Dropping Hints

A Guest Post by Author Brad Preston

Blood Trail is, at heart, a novel of circumstantial revenge. Wrong place, wrong time. And haven't we all been there before? Hopefully not to the extent the novel's characters have to endure.

The plot involves three different storylines (and their extensional parts) and the inevitable convergence that lays in wait. How does one pull this off without the story appearing contrived? There is no blueprint but there are certain steps you can follow (or avoid). Contrivance is sometimes a necessity and if you can suspend the reader's disbelief as they turn the pages, then you have succeeded. You have to be able to manipulate the puppet's strings without showing your hands, without losing the reader to the “that is too convenient” card. If it seems too impossible, too unbelievable, then it probably is. Mind you, this is all in relation to the flow of your story, to the nature of the tale you're spinning.

If your book takes place in the realm of the impossible, then the more the merrier. If it's grounded in reality, tread carefully. It doesn't mean you can't throw a curve ball at the reader. If you see no other way around a given situation, if you can't write yourself out of a corner, then it's probably a necessity.

The best way to not lose the reader is drop subtle hints here and there along the way. Subconscious notes the reader can store away so when that twist comes from left field (because, as writer, we have no other alternative, no other way to get from scene A to scene B) then they accept the surprise, they go with it, the flow of your story continues. Not all novels require this, not all authors require this. I, as a fledgling writer, sometimes notice that contrived feel to some of my stories. Sometimes I do write myself into a box. But that's okay... if you can pull it off. Remember the shark tank in the movie Jaws? Could a scuba tank really blow up a 25 foot Great White shark? Of course not, but Spielberg claimed that if he could hold the audience's attention for two hours, then they would believe anything in the end no matter how unrealistic or unbelievable it was. And he “hinted” up to it, too. Hooper states to Brody that the tanks are filled with compressed gas and if you mess around with them, they'll blow up. Thus, the ending. Not a bad contrivance, probably the best ever.

So don't worry about that one idea that would save your story but just doesn't fit. Don't fret about how to get from point A to point B. Throw it in there. Just remember your “hints”, remember those subconscious suggestions... and go with it. Contrivances are sometimes the stepping stones to greatness.

Find Blood Trail by Brad Preston on Facebook





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Saturday, July 2, 2011

Review: 'Ruptured' by Tarek Refaat

Ruptured, a novel by Egyptian author Tarek Hassan Refaat, isn't always an easy one to read. It tells about the emotional aftermath of a sexual assault. Its main character, Farida, is a strong-willed survivor, so she is able to triumph even in the face of a society that looks down on her for something that wasn't her fault.

Refaat writes in his introduction, "In a Middle Eastern society, a woman who has suffered such a horrible experience as rape is condemned in the eyes and words of the community.

"People never cease talking about her, or wondering if she was the cause of the incident and, even if not, they regard her as ‘used goods’ or an ‘expired product’ who should be satisfied with whatever comes her way, even if this means getting married to someone who doesn’t suit her or care about her. The pressure the victim undergoes is tremendous. In this novel, I attempt to take you on a journey of pain, struggle, and hope."

This attitude, unfortunately, is not confined to the Middle East. Until girls all around the world are educated equally along with their brothers, their thoughts and contributions to society are valued and males are taught from an early age to respect women, sexual assault survivors all over the world will still be able to identify with Farida's struggle, the dark times in her life, and her post-traumatic stress syndrome. It's yet another reminder that the fight for equal rights for women - even the basic human right not to undergo rape and other forms of torture - is one we must continue to fight.

Making matters worse for Farida is her Machiavellian co-worker Gihad, who's scheming for her position at the magazine where they work. As thoughtless as she is ambitious, Gihad betrays Farida in an unimaginable way. Gihad's betrayal is almost as difficult to read as the passages that deal directly with the rape.

As Refaat's introduction promises, though, there are moments of hope as well. Farida seems to find a true friend in her new co-worker, Dr. Karam. The psychiatrist is extremely empathetic and professional toward her, helping Farida slowly heal. He may even be developing romantic feelings for her, though his professionalism and manners ensure that he will go about expressing his feelings in a respectful, appropriate way.

As you may have gathered from some of my previous reviews, when I read fiction that involves a character who has been sexually abused, I demand sensitivity on the part of the writer. Tarek Refaat writes with sensitivity, sympathy and an eye toward human dignity at all times. He takes us inside Farida's head, a very dark place, but ultimately a place where survival and healing can occur. This isn't an easy book, but it's a lovely and worthwhile story of the triumph of the human spirit.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Independence Day, U.S. of A!

It's Fourth of July weekend, which means the U.S. will be celebrating our independence from England, hard won in the Revolutionary War of the 1770s. It's a weekend to celebrate our freedoms, especially those spelled out in the U.S. Constitution. As an erotica writer, I can assure you I appreciate the right the free speech. As a human being, I appreciate every bit of the Bill of Rights.

https://www.etsy.com/listing/208588716/bomb-pop-short-story-e-book




















My small Midwest USA town held its annual Summerfest last weekend. Tit Elingtin and I went down to snag our once-yearly allotment of fair food, which this year consisted of mashed red potatoes covered in sauteed green peppers, onions and mushrooms. (Tit has sirloin tips too, but I ate the veggie version.) It's an excellent place to people-watch. Let me set the scene for you: my little town is predominantly Caucasian, with a large population of the descendants of socioeconomically disadvantaged whites from the Southern U.S. who migrated in the early 20th century to work in a rubber factory that used to exist. These are the folks who show up at the park, kids in tow, to line up for the moon bounce, eat deep-fried elephant ears and get their faces painted. I love it. That face-painting is really artsy and cool, btw. The young guys walk around shirtless, trying to attract the attention of girls with butterflies on their faces.

The highlights of the fair were the live band, which kicked out some awesome covers, and the community stage performance of the campy tongue-in-cheek musical Xanadu.

Maybe the 4th of July weekend is your town's weekend to party. If you're inclined to drink alcohol, you might enjoy the red, white and blue Bomb Pop Shot, said to taste just like the popsicle some of us remember from childhood:

Red - Grenadine

White - Equal parts raspberry vodka, lemon vodka and lemon-lime soda

Blue - Blue Curacao

A skilled bartender can layer them in a shot glass by pouring them down the back of a spoon.

The appropriate reading material while enjoying this Fourth of July treat is "Bomb Pop" by Erin O'Riordan, from Noble Romance. It's only $1.50 for Kindle.

Bomb Pop (n): 1. A classic American frozen treat, a fruit-flavored popsicle in the red, white and blue of the American flag. 2. The story of Gretchen Malone, a second-grade teacher who normally keeps her wits about her, especially when it comes to workplace romances. That is, until hunky kindergarten teacher Thom Reno brings up a long-buried memory from summers past and a repressed schoolgirl crush along with it.

It gets good reviews:

"If you're looking for a quick read that's sweeter than candy and hotter than an August summer day, then 'Bomb Pop' by Erin O'Riordan is for you. Filled with sugary sweet metaphors that combine sex, popsicles and ice cream sundaes, this story will leave you craving a meltingly hot round of sweaty sex followed something icy cold and syrupy sweet to cool you off." ~Roxanne Rhoads (OystersAndChocolate.com)

"Well written, agreeable to read, inventive by times ... and most important of all: erotic. I can only congratulate the author for her taste and sensitivity in writing and style." ~Lena Vanelslander (Facebook)

"What happens when you get a teacher who equates men to a 'bomb pop?' A short story so steamy you will have to fan yourself when you're finished. 'Bomb Pop' is a great read! This is the first story I have read by Ms. O'Riordan but it won't be my last. She is definitely an author to keep an eye out for." ~Stephanie Wilson (Manic Readers)

"When I glanced at the cover for Bomb Pop I thought to myself, 'Not another popsicle induced fantasy.' But I loved the fact that the hero is not a school age boy but a fellow teacher and I so loved the scene where Thom goes down on Gretchen. Very bone melting! Over all, this story was a good quick read when you are on your 15 minute break from work. I can't wait to read more of her stuff." ~M. Duncan (Amazon)

So check it out. It's good dirty summer fun. Happy Independence Day!